The list of high achievers who have attended OSU is incredibly long, so today we focus just on those six who have reached the pinnacle in Ohio politics – the governor’s office.
John W. Bricker received his bachelor’s degree in 1916 and his law degree in 1920, demonstrating along the way how active he would later be in politics: He was a member of the political science club, on varsity debating team and baseball team, a member of Varsity “O,” class president his junior year, chairman of the senior memorial committee, YMCA president and a member of the senior honorary, Sphinx.
After he received his law degree, Bricker went into politics. Among the high offices he held were Ohio Attorney General, Ohio Governor (three two-year terms) and two terms as U.S. Senator. He also served as the Republican nominee for Vice President in the 1944 presidential election between Thomas Dewey and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
He was a member of OSU’s Board of Trustees from 1948 to 1969, serving his last year as chairman. Because of his long service to the University, the former Administration Building was renamed for him in 1983.
Thomas J. Herbert didn’t graduate from OSU, but he did attend the University’s Ground School training program during World War I. Before he was elected governor, Herbert served as Ohio Attorney General. After the end of his single-term governorship, President Dwight Eisenhower appointed him chair of the federal government’s Subversive Activities Control Board, an agency formed to hear testimony regarding charges of communism in the U.S.
Though Herbert didn’t receive an academic degree from OSU, his son, John D. Herbert did graduate from OSU in 1949. Another son, David J. Herbert, followed his in his father’s political footsteps and served as state treasurer for three terms.
John Kasich, Ohio’s current Republican governor, has had much more success running for state and national offices than he did when he was a student at Ohio State. He ran twice for president of the Undergraduate Student Government, but was defeated both times. He protested the second election, citing voting irregularities, but nothing came of his appeal. He graduated in December 1974 with a bachelor of arts degree in political science.
At age 26, Kasich became the youngest person ever to be elected to the Ohio Senate; he then ran for U.S. Congress and ultimately served nine terms. From 2001 to 2009, Kasich served a number of roles as a private citizen, including as a host of “Heartland with John Kasich” on the Fox News Channel. In 2010, he ran for governor, defeating then-incumbent Ted Strickland.
C. William O’Neill actually began his political career while attending OSU’s College of Law. Before entering law school, he had campaigned for other Republican candidates, but in 1938, he decided to campaign for himself, for a seat in the Ohio House of Representatives. Winning the election made him the youngest General Assembly’s youngest representative, at age 22. A member of Phi Beta Kappa while in school, he earned his law degree in 1942.
During a 40-year political career, O’Neill lost only one race – the gubernatorial election of 1958. But he more than made up for that one loss, ultimately becoming the only person to serve as Ohio’s Supreme Court Chief Justice, Governor, Speaker of the House and Attorney General. He died after a heart attack in 1978 while serving as Chief Justice. At that time, he also was serving on the OSU Alumni Association’s Board of Directors as immediate past president.
James Rhodes only briefly attended OSU in the mid-1920s before he had to drop out to help support his family, according to the alumni magazine. His first election victory came as Republican ward committeeman in Columbus, thus beginning a long political career in the state capital. His highest office was as Ohio Governor – for four terms, making him one of the longest-serving governors in U.S. history.
Though Rhodes is remembered for sending the National Guard to quell student protests on various Ohio campuses, including OSU (on May 4, 1970, four students were shot to death by Guardsmen at Kent State University), he is also credited with developing a network of community and technical colleges around the state to increase opportunities for vocational education.
Rhodes also promoted OSU as a major center for medical training and research; in 1976, the Rhodes Hall addition to University Hospitals was named after him.
George Voinovich graduated in 1961 with a law degree from The Ohio State University. He got his start in political leadership roles while still on campus, serving as president of both his class and the campus Young Republicans.
After graduation, Voinovich went on to serve the state of Ohio in a wide variety of offices as a state representative, as Lieutenant Governor under fellow Buckeye James Rhodes, as the Mayor of Cleveland, the Governor, and, most recently, as U.S. Senator. His 2004 Senate victory was won by a landslide with all 88 Ohio counties selecting him to serve.