From Woody's Couch

Our Playbook on OSU History

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Twelve Days of Buckeyes: Six who’ve attended OSU have led as Ohio’s governor, too

John Bricker, 1916

John Bricker, 1916

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

John Kasich

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.

Governor Rhodes, 1969

Governor Rhodes, 1969

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, 1961

George Voinovich, 1961

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.

Twelve Days of Buckeyes: 7 “Saints” first served OSU in scholarship

University Hall

When The Ohio State University opened its doors on September 17, 1873, seven faculty members were there to teach the two dozen students who had arrived to obtain a college degree. At the time there was only one building on campus – University Hall – and it included not only classrooms, but a chapel, a library and living quarters for both students and some faculty members. The faculty lived on the top floor; consequently, that part of the building was known by students as the “Saints’ Roost.” (The students lived in the cellar, referring to it as “Purgatory.”) Thomas Mendenhall, the last surviving faculty member, recalled in 1920 that these men were underpaid, all lacking a Ph.D at the time of their appointment, and were given charge of a broad area of study that would shock the “modern” professor. Given these conditions, is it any wonder why the students came up with the “Saints” nickname?

Edward Orton, 1875

Edward S. Orton Sr. (1829 – 1899) was originally from New York where he graduated from Hamilton College at age 17. The following year he went to seminary and taught at several institutions before becoming professor, then president, at Antioch College in Ohio. A year later he was named the first President of the new Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College and the chair of Geology. Orton also developed the first campus museum in University Hall. In 1881 Orton resigned from his duties as President in order to serve as state geologist. He was 44 when he took the appointment, and held it until his death eight years later.



Robert McFarland, 1873

Robert W. McFarland (1825 – 1910) was a self-educated Scotsman, who, despite his lack of a formal education, was described as having knowledge that was “encyclopedic.” While at OSU, and in addition to his teaching duties, he apparently worked for several hours a day, six days a week, for four years, to calculate the form of the earth’s orbit and the longitude of its perihelion for the previous  five and a half million years. McFarland taught at the College until 1885 when he accepted the presidency at Miami University.



T.C. Mendenhall, 1873

Thomas Corwin Mendenhall (1841 – 1924), from Columbus, was a renowned physicist and scientist whose education was attained through public schools. He had previously taught at Columbus’ Central High School, and came to the new college for five years before leaving to join the faculty at the Imperial University of Japan. Three years later he returned to Ohio, and the College, before resigning in 1884 to pursue other academic interests. In 1919 he was named to the Board of Trustees of the renamed Ohio State University, and he served in this capacity until his death in 1924 at the age of 83.



Joseph Millikin, 1873

Joseph Millikin (1840 – 1882) taught English and modern languages and literature at the College as well as serving as the school’s librarian. Originally from Hamilton, Ohio, he graduated from Miami University at the age of 19, then attended Princeton Theological Seminary with an intent to become a minister. Known for his frail health, he came to the College in 1872 and was remembered as teaching philosophy in addition to Latin, Greek, French, German, Anglo-Saxon and the Romance languages, depending on the session. He taught at the College until 1881, at which point his poor health forced his resignation. He died in 1882.



S.A. Norton, 1888

Sidney Augustus Norton (1835 – 1918), of Cincinnati, taught at several high schools before being appointed professor of chemistry at Miami Medical College in Cincinnati, where he received his medical degree. He taught chemistry at the new College from 1873 until 1899 when he was appointed professor emeritus. Norton also had a reputation for his broad intellect, being familiar with many different branches of science, as well as history, literature and the arts.



N.S. Townshend, 1883


Norton Strange Townshend (1815 – 1895) was the eldest original faculty member to be appointed, at 58 years old. He first served as a Trustee for the new College, but resigned from this position so he could be named professor of agriculture. He served the University as a professor until January 1892, and afterwards was named professor emeritus. Originally from Northamptonshire, England, he journeyed with his parents to Ohio in 1830 and received his medical degree from the University of New York in 1840. He became involved with both the temperance and the anti-slavery movements, and was elected to Congress in 1850. He died at his home, on the University grounds, in 1895.

J.H. Wright, 1874


John Henry Wright (1852 – 1908) was both the last original faculty member to be appointed as well as the youngest, at age 21. He was born in Persia, to missionary parents, and he came to America when he was eight years old. He graduated from Dartmouth in 1873, and after arriving at what was to become Ohio State, he was one of the faculty members to live in University Hall during the college’s first year. Though he arrived with virtually no teaching experience, he was knowledgeable in the areas he taught (Ancient languages and literatures) and was said to have made a lasting impression on his students. He stayed at the college only for three years; he eventually taught at Harvard, where he also served as dean of the graduate school for many years.

Twelve Days of Buckeyes: OSU’s 8th President left lasting legacy

Fawcett speaking during his Inauguration, 1957

President No. 8 for Ohio State was Novice G. Fawcett, a native of Gambier, Ohio, who was born in 1909. He had never served in higher education until he was tapped as president in 1957, but his skills as a public school system administrator helped him move the university forward significantly and allowed him to weather a number of significant crises during his 16-year term.

After attending Kenyon College (where he graduated in 1931), Fawcett earned a master’s degree in education from OSU in 1937.  At the same time, he served as the superintendent of schools in Gambier. A year later, he became superintendent of schools for Defiance, Ohio, then for Bexley, Ohio, in 1943.  In 1947, he became assistant superintendent for Akron and became superintendent for Columbus Public Schools in 1949. Fawcett served with then-OSU President Howard Bevis on the Ohio Committee on Expanding Student Population before his inauguration as OSU President on April 29, 1957.

When Fawcett assumed his duties as president of OSU, 21,000 students attended the Columbus campus, $2 million was spent on research annually, and buildings and equipment were valued at $88 million. In his inaugural address, “Toward a New Level of Greatness,” he laid out an ambitious plan to move the University forward in a number of ways, such as research, continuing education, administrative improvement and the use of new technologies in the classroom. When he retired in 1972, 50,000 students attended OSU’s main and new regional campuses, $26 million was spent annually on research, and the value of buildings and equipment neared $400 million.

Fawcett’s term was also a time of significant social disruption and turbulence on campus.  Among the subjects of student demonstrations were discrimination in university housing and off-campus housing, the “Speaker’s Rule,” which restricted who could speak on campus, and was considered an abridgement of free speech. Women’s rights, minority rights, and the Vietnam War also were key topics of dissent.

Speaker’s Rule Demonstration, 1965

One of the highlights of Fawcett’s tenure was the creation of the Office of Continuing Education, which was originally housed at the Center for Tomorrow on Olentangy River Road. To honor Fawcett’s role in creating this division, and for his legacy at the University as a whole, the building was renamed the Novice G. Fawcett Center for Tomorrow in June 1972, two months before Fawcett left office.

Fawcett Center, 1975

Fawcett died in 1998; he was 79 years old.


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