From Woody's Couch

Our Playbook on OSU History

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OSU’s 1996 South Africa trip included Mandela speech

President Gordon Gee holds a Mandela jersey during his trip to South Africa, 1996

President Gordon Gee holds a Mandela jersey during his trip to South Africa, 1996

In early June 1996, President E. Gordon Gee, along with 36 Ohio State faculty members and the OSU men’s basketball team, embarked on a two-week trip to South Africa, with the faculty going on to visit Uganda as the basketball team took a detour to Zimbabwe. The timing of the trip was particularly significant: Only two years earlier, South Africa’s apartheid system had been brought down by free elections following violent protests.

The primary purpose of the tour was to foster ties between Ohio State and African universities and to show how Ohio State can make a difference around the globe. One major area of shared interest: agriculture. For years South African students had come to Ohio State to study agriculture before bringing these lessons back to their home country. Some of these students had gone on to become faculty members at the University of Natal in South Africa. Makerere University in Uganda, likewise, had a strong relationship with Ohio State; OSU worked with the Ugandan university to set up a Cooperative Extension Service in Uganda, with the aid of $20 million from the World Bank. In addition to furthering the agricultural relationship, faculty members hoped the 1996 trip would help build collaboration in law, education, nursing and humanities programs with South African universities.

Nelson Mandela speaking during event, 1996

Nelson Mandela speaking during event, 1996

Meanwhile, the men’s basketball team hosted basketball clinics and demonstrations for local residents, both in the major cities and in the countryside. Basketball was seen as a way to bring people across South Africa together and integrate traditionally rugby-playing whites and soccer-playing blacks. At the same time, OSU basketball players learned about the history of modern South Africa and the role that students played in the protests that eventually brought an end to the apartheid regime. At one point, basketball team members attended a Youth Day celebration where they heard then-South Africa President Nelson Mandela speak.

The members of the OSU delegation were thrilled by the success of the trip, Gee said after the return. “We really met and exceeded our expectations,” he said. Gee and others spoke positively of South Africa as a nation, remarking on its determination to become a diverse, integrated country and its optimism and hope for the future. The Ohio State visit also was apparently the first visit by a foreign university’s representatives to the South African countryside.

For information on today’s memorial event for Nelson Mandela in Hale Hall, visit

Members of the trip, including athletes from the basketball team, pose for a portrait in S. Africa, 1996

Members of the trip, including athletes from the basketball team, pose for a portrait, 1996

‘Jovial Bob’ aimed to put the fun back into USG elections

The Makio, 1965

This year’s USG election is the latest in a long line of annual events in which students choose the candidate whom they believe will best represent their interests in Ohio State’s student government. It has sometimes been ugly – depending on how much mud is slung by various candidates – and it sometimes has been plagued by scandal, with accusations of vote-rigging other such charges.

And once, in 1965, it was infused with a healthy dose of humor, thanks to R.L. Stine, who went on to author the popular Goosebumps series of scary books for kids.

The Makio, 1965

At the time he ran for USG president that year, Stine was also known as Jovial Bob Stine, editor of the Sundial, OSU’s very own humor magazine. He also was a graduating senior and therefore not eligible to actually win the election. But that didn’t stop him from running a full-blown campaign, complete with clowns carrying signs encouraging students to vote for “Jovial Bob.” His campaign promise: If elected he would graduate and be gone for good.

Amazingly, he received 1,200 write-in votes.

After graduating that year, Stine went to New York City where, according to the alumni magazine, he wrote for a humor magazine called “Bananas,” then published his first book, How to Be Funny. He later wrote G.I. Joe and Indiana Jones books.

In the late 1980s, R.L. Stone was asked by a former editor to write a scary children’s book called Blind Date, which became a best-seller. That led to an idea for a series of scary stories for children, which led to Goosebumps. At one point in the early 1990s, the series outsold such other best-selling authors as Stephen King, John Grisham and Michael Crichton.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not?), the year after Jovial Bob ran, there was only one candidate for USG President. Also coincidentally, considering this blog post, this year’s election again features only one candidate – the first time since 1966.




Black History Month: Football player had higher calling than just ‘phys ed’

William Bell

William Bell

William “Big Bill” Bell was a standout tackle for the OSU football team, but his academic career off the field far outshone his performance on it.

Bell played for the Buckeyes from 1929 through 1931, and earned All Big Ten and Honorable Mention All-American honors his final season. But football wasn’t his only activity: He was a member, and Sergeant of Arms, for the African-American social fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, and he was a member of Varsity “O,” the Collegiate Council, and the Interracial Council.

His senior year, the Upper Class Cabinet of the OSU chapter of the YMCA tapped Bell to lead a new committee on interracial relations. In doing so, the Cabinet’s president, Wallace Hall, revived a then-dormant policy of allowing African-American members to become a member. In a Lantern article about Bell’s appointment, Hall said “Bell is a good worker, and I see no reason he should not be a member of the cabinet.”

Bell was named Interracial Chairman of the Upper Class Cabinet, 1931 Makio

Bell was named Interracial Chairman of the Upper Class Cabinet, 1931 Makio

After graduating in June 1932, Bell began a long career coaching football at historically African-American colleges, including Claflin College in South Carolina, Florida A&M University, Howard University and finally North Carolina A&T State University. Bell worked more than 20 years at North Carolina A&T in a number of capacities, including athletic director and professor of physical education. (Along the way, Bell received his master’s degree in physical education and his PhD in physical education from Ohio State, in 1937 and 1960, respectively.)

After organizing physical education departments at several universities, Bell ended his career as athletic director of Fayetteville (Alabama) State University where he assisted in the development of Fayetteville’s National Youth Sports Program, a summer organization for disadvantaged youths.

He died at the age of 81 in 1981 in Fayetteville. In Bell’s obituary, a former student of Bell’s at North Carolina said Bell “never said ’phys. ed.’ He always said ‘health and physical education.’ He wanted it to be a profession.”

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