From Woody's Couch

Our Playbook on OSU History

Alumni Weekend: An early class’s tale of reconnecting

Olive Branch Jones, 1912

Olive Branch Jones, 1912

Today, with the vast number of students who graduate every year, it would be unthinkable for a class to gather in one publication the updates on lives and recollections from school days of its various members. But given the well-organized nature of the University’s librarian, it was almost pulled off for the Class of 1887’s 25th reunion.

In 1912, when the Class of 1887 was about to celebrate its 25th anniversary of graduation, Olive Branch Jones – by then the first full-time librarian for her alma mater, OSU – took on the task with a friend to publish a report on members of the class of 1887. It was actually that class’s treasurer, Joseph S. Myers, who had written to Jones telling her his plans of having a “history of ’87 prepared in this 25th Anniversary Year” and to have a sort of questionnaire sent out to all the 21 graduates. Myers and a fellow classmate, Joe Taylor, both agreed that they thought Jones, a fellow class member, could handle this job best.

Questionnaire for 1887 reunion; (Click to view larger version)

Questionnaire for 1887 reunion

For some reason, however, Jones was unable to pull it off. Maybe it was because it was the year before the then-main library was to open, and she was too busy as University Librarian preparing for that event.

But the questionnaire remains, and it is quite a relic of a bygone era. Respondents are asked what political party they belong to (Progressive or Reactionary), what church they belong to and whether they are a woman suffragist, among other things.

And Jones did receive some interesting letters from alumni, who were unable to attend the reunion but wanted to update their classmates on their current lives. One alumna, Daisy M. Scott, had for some time been a math teacher at North High School in Columbus, although there was one year when she was sent to Central and East high schools “to extricate some of their students from difficulties algebraic.” Joe Taylor marched down memory lane at first in his letter, then veered into waxing philosophic about the past: “…we don’t live there any more; we can’t stay in that familiar and peaceless place, the undergrad campus; a place so stripped of yesterdays … I am more able to say this because I have not achieved what we call great success; my own today is a very modest affair; yet so it seems, no doubt, to each of us.”

Heavy stuff. Luckily, for the class members who showed up at the actual reunion, the mood appeared to be much lighter. Along with discussions about a report, various letters were exchanged between Jones and Lucretia McPherson, wife of then-Graduate School Dean William McPherson, in which they decided also to hold a garden party in celebration. Roughly 50 people, including graduates’ family members and former faculty, apparently gathered on June 10, 1912, after which Lucretia McPherson wrote to Jones that it was “one of the most worthwhile parties, for the guests seemed to be so truly happy to see one another.”

Reunion group in front of University Hall, 1912

Reunion group in front of University Hall, 1912

– Filed by B.T.
Note: This information came from the Director of Libraries collection at the University Archives in a folder called “Class of 1887: 25th Anniversary: Correspondence for 1912 (Olive Jones)”

Famed OSU botanist left behind captivating photos and career

The Archives recently received a small donation of material that belonged to a former OSU professor who was regarded as “one of the greatest botanists of his day.”

John Henry Schaffner came to the University in 1897 as an assistant in Botany, and served as head of the Department of Botany from 1908 to 1918. Later in his career, he went on to make a radical discovery in in the field of Botany that brought admiration from scientists worldwide. But more about that in a bit.

Early on in Schaffner’s tenure at OSU, he took the following photographs, which depict a very different view of campus.

Oval from Armory, 1899

This first photograph was taken from the top of the Armory in 1899. (The Armory was situated at the site where the Wexner Center sits today.) What we now think of the Oval did not quite exist yet, and as you can see, a house sat at the east end. In 1902, the house was moved to the north edge of today’s Mershon Auditorium and became the home to OSU athletics. It was aptly named the “Athletic House.”

To the left of the house is Biological Hall, which was built in 1898 for the departments of Anatomy and Physiology, and Botany and Zoology. The Biology Building was torn down in 1923 to make way for the current Hagerty Hall building.

To the right is Orton Hall, and the old Botanical Hall, which is where Schaffner spent much of his time in teaching and research.


John H. Schaffner, 1900

John H. Schaffner, 1900

This panorama photo shows a view of campus from the southeast end, looking northwest. You can see the back side of Orton Hall towards the right, as well as McMillin Observatory, which was situated on the southwest side of Mirror Lake.  The observatory, which opened in 1896, was torn down in 1976.

But, what are even more interesting than Schaffner’s photographs, are his background and research interests. Schaffner was widely known among scientists for his botanical discoveries, and as a prolific writer of books and scientific papers. He was also renowned for his help in overthrowing the thought that the sex of plants was hereditary.

Yes, you heard right.

An Alumni Monthly article from October 1928 noted that Schaffner’s most important discovery is that the sex of the plant may be changed:

“Professor Schaffner found that by controlling the conditions in which a plant developed he could change the entire sex of the plant. The further development of this discovery will lead to many radical changes in the treatment of plant life.”

Schaffner read his paper describing this discovery in 1926 at a convention of botanists in Ithaca, New York, and it was widely acclaimed by scientists in many countries.

Schaffner died on January 27, 1939.

(Special thanks to Bob Cody, Schaffner’s grandson, who donated the campus photographs to the University Archives.)

For 20 years, Buck-ID has swiped away purchasing hassles for students

"Becky Buckeye" Buck ID, 1996This week marks the 20th anniversary of the Buck-ID, the ubiquitous ID for students and staff alike that started out as essentially a computerized meal ticket for dining-hall residents. It wasn’t the first ID on campus, though.

Until 1969, students used fee cards to prove they were, in fact, supposed to be on campus. These cards listed the amount of tuition and other fees charged for that quarter, then were stamped to show they had been paid. Any student caught with another student’s fee card could face serious disciplinary action.

Student fee card, 1944

Student fee card, 1944











In 1969, the University introduced a new, plastic-coated card for students that was small enough to fit in a wallet, unlike the fee cards. On the front was each student’s photo, which was taken by the Department of Photography. The cards included the student’s name and Social Security number as well.

These cards evolved over time, until the first Buck-ID was introduced in 1994. These new cards were sturdier than the old identification cards, and had two magnetic strips on the back, as well as a barcode. They did not have Social Security numbers on them, which made the new Buck IDs more popular than the old IDs. And they gave students buying power.

A student uses a BuckID at Taco Bell, 1996

A student uses a BuckID at Taco Bell, 1996

At that time, the Buck-ID was mostly a convenient alternative to meal tickets, though. Students could set up an account for $10, and parents or students could load more money for food at any time. This simple system took off: That year, 7,000 students signed up for accounts; two years later, 22,000 had Buck IDs. Meanwhile, the few businesses that were allowed to accept the card at the time reported a minimum of a 20 percent increase in sales the first year.

In 1997, the COTA bus system got on board: For an extra $9 fee, students could use their Buck ID to ride buses on any Columbus route for free. Eventually, new COTA routes, including those to the retail corridor along Sawmill Road and the Lennox Town Center, were added to better accommodate students.

By 2000, the Buck ID was transforming into what we know of it today, as not only a specialized credit card to be used at chain stores like CVS and even The Columbus Dispatch, but also as an ID, allowing students and staff access to buildings, library materials, and more.

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