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Our Playbook on OSU History

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Hygiene-conscious health services director led campus through 1918 pandemic

Dr. H.S. Wingert, undated

Dr. H. Shindle Wingert was a man ahead of his time: A firm believer in preventive medicine, hand-washing and what now would be called “social distancing” to thwart the spread of disease, he served OSU more than a century ago during the 1918 pandemic.

A 1903 graduate of the Maryland Medical College, Dr. Wingert arrived at Ohio State in 1907, joining the faculty as a professor in the Department of Physical Education. At that time he also was named Director of Physical Education and Director of Athletics. In 1915 the Board of Trustees selected him to be the first director of a new department, Student Health Services, located in Hayes Hall. He reported directly to then-President William Oxley Thompson.

Even before he was in charge of students’ collective well-being, Dr. Wingert was promoting good health practices. In 1908 he wrote a letter to then-Ohio State President William Oxley Thompson sharing slogans such as “Health First” and “Prevention is Greater than Cure.” Soon after he became head of Student Health Services, he proposed a student health board composed initially of student aides in the Department of Physical Education who would fan out throughout the University District, checking on ill students daily in their apartments and boarding houses and reporting their status to Dr. Wingert.

Lantern article, 1918

“It is necessary that all contagious diseases be reported to Dr. Wingert immediately,” the Lantern reported, “for the only safeguard to the students is the safe isolation of the patient.”  It’s unclear whether the proposal was ever put into practice, however.

Lantern article, 1918

By 1918 the pandemic known as the “Spanish Flu,” reached the U.S. when soldiers carried it home after serving in the trenches of World War I. In September 1918, the campus began hosting the Student Army Training Corps, which brought military personnel to campus to train new cadets for the war effort. At first, Wingert was cautious, saying that there was “no necessity for a quarantine being established” even though other campuses were launching such measures. His advice, according to The Lantern, was for the men in training to keep themselves in good condition “to avoid the possibility of disease making headway among the students” and for everyone to “[c]over up each cough and sneeze, if you don’t, you’ll spread disease.”

He even made sure football games could continue, saying there was no reason to cancel them as long as spectators remained apart while in the stands. Ohio State hosted games in Columbus on October 5 and 12 against Ohio Wesleyan and Denison, respectively. The disease spread rapidly across the country, however, so as a precautionary measure, University officials ordered campus to close on October 11 and directed all students to return to their homes until the University reopened on November 12. Football games also were cancelled during that period.

Though he encouraged students to remain vigilant and avoid social gatherings if possible, Dr. Wingert announced in February 1920 that the pandemic was on the decline, with only five cases reported since the beginning of that year.  In 1923 Dr. Wingert told The Lantern that “the influenza epidemic is practically ended” with only an average number of students with flu symptoms seeking treatment. During the epidemic, eight deaths were reported out of the 440 cases handled on campus.

Happy about hand-washing

After the epidemic, Dr. Wingert continued to promote good hygiene practices, such as hand-washing. In fact, he claimed that he washed his hands “100 to 160 times a day” due to “his belief that more diseases are transmitted by the hands than any other medium.” While it allowed him to maintain good hygiene, he did fear that, “they will wear out some day.”

He promoted good hygiene practices in other ways. In March 1922 he created a series of 18 cards with various health tips and advice, such as “Prevention is Greater than Cure” and “Something You Should Know About Contagious Diseases.” These were made available at various campus locations, and they would be used throughout the years, such as during a mumps outbreak on campus in April 1928.

Good hygiene practice card, 1922

Good hygiene practice card, 1922

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pharmacy poisonings scandal

Despite the success of preventing a large-scale outbreak of the flu at Ohio State and the creation of the helpful health cards, Dr. Wingert’s tenure as health services director was tainted by controversy. In 1925 two students who had fulfilled prescriptions at the campus pharmacy died. The dispensary, which Wingert had founded in 1921, was busy during the cold and flu season and it employed many students, who often filled the prescriptions with no direct supervision. It was believed that these contributing factors allowed someone, intentionally or mistakenly, to mix deadly strychnine pills into a batch of quinine pills.

An ensuing investigation eventually revealed that the incorrect fillings may have been done by a dispensing pharmacy that provided the medications to the Student Health Services pharmacy, not the pharmacy itself. However, it was illegal for students fill prescriptions without a professional pharmacist on duty, so the pharmacy was shut down during investigation.

The strain on Dr. Wingert from the scandal may have been too much; in August 1926 he sustained a “nervous breakdown,” according to a 1970 history of the student health services, and he was placed on a year-long leave, during which his assistant director, Dr. Richard Kimpton served as acting director. Dr. Wingert returned as director in March 1928.

His own health decline

A few months later, Dr. Wingert attended a meeting on May 1 regarding the “freshman problem.” The meeting was convened by then-President George Rightmire to discuss a report that had been issued by a university-wide Committee on the Freshman Problem that had been studying how the University could help freshmen better transition to University life. Recommendations ranged from changes in the level of coursework that would be available to freshmen, to special class offerings, such as learning effective study habits. (One of the recommendations ultimately resulted in what is now known as Orientation.)

Lantern article, 1928

Part of that committee’s charge was to study a possible reorganization of the student health services, including putting it under the oversight of the College of Medicine. Dr. Wingert was not in attendance, however; he died due to complications from acute nephritis at the age of 61 on May 11, only ten weeks after returning as director.

 

Hope and Uncertainty: Celebrating Ohio State’s Centennial in 1970

Alumni magazine cover, July 1970

For many OSU students and alumni, 1970 was a year that constantly brought bad news. The Beatles broke up, the Apollo 13 mission to space almost didn’t make it home again, and President Nixon ordered more US troops into Cambodia in yet another attempt to end the Vietnam War. The Cambodian Campaign sparked protests across the nation on college campuses, including Ohio’s Kent State University, where 4 students were shot by the National Guard on May 4th following several days of protests. In the midst of this emotionally charged atmosphere, the Ohio State University started winding up for the university’s centennial celebration. For some, this was a welcome moment of optimism in an otherwise depressing year, as Marjorie Schwartz, Class of ’45, described in a letter to OSU Monthly’s July issue:

“You will note the date of this letter and understand when I say that along with millions of people I am just a bit depressed and dejected about the tone of the times. This week especially with the Kent State incident and the campus action around the country, I am alternately bewildered, angry, fearful, heartsick, etc. – it boggles the mind…

THEN the [Centennial] Monthly arrived. OHIO STATE LIVES! and the world will be all right after all.”

Centennial Medal, 1970

The university wanted this optimism for the future to be evident throughout the Centennial celebration, and asked celebrated cartoonist and OSU graduate, Milton Caniff, to design a commemorative medal that showcased the future of Ohio State – its students. Richard Mall, Director of Alumni Affairs, suggested to Caniff that instead of campus buildings, the medallion might feature young people, the true “product” of OSU. The medal was then used for several award ceremonies during the Centennial celebration to recognize individuals who had made significant contributions to the university, such as Jesse Owens, Milton Caniff himself, and others. Additionally, OSU awarded 24 honorary degrees and 150 centennial scholarships to students, as well as hosting over 250 different events on campus to celebrate the occasion.

Centennial Cake, 1970

The Centennial logo itself was featured heavily everywhere, including a massive cake that faithfully reproduced the stylized torch in a recipe that called for over two thousand eggs, hundreds of pounds of flour, sugar, butter, and two quarts of vanilla extract. The cake served over 4,000 people at the “Buckeye Centennibration” held at the Ohio Union on January 10th, and the University president, Novice G. Fawcett, crowned the “Centennial Queen”, Christina Lee McClain. Christina, a junior in the Computer Science department, impressed the selection committee with her application, which emphasized the importance of reaching not only the student body and alumni of the University via her position as a University representative, but the larger communities of Columbus and Ohio. Ohio also celebrated the auspicious year statewide by designing and issuing almost six and a half million license plates that featured the iconic shades of scarlet and gray.

Centennial Logo, 1970

Despite the numerous celebrations planned for the centennial year, university leaders such as President Fawcett were concerned with not only the immediate future, but the distant one as well. In a published list of objectives for the next hundred years, 1970-2070, the university stated that its focus must be “to identify major problem areas that make the next century a critical one – problems that must be solved in this century if the viability of civilization is to continue”. Milton Caniff captured this mixture of hope and uncertainty that encapsulated the start of the seventies in a program handed out during OSU’s Centennial Ball, which included a poem he’d written in 1930 as a senior at OSU:

“No class before or since gives hoot that mine marched out to panic’s tune. Depression changed our lives, but talk about it bores, so let it pass away. Important is the fact that Orton’s chimes reached every student ear.”

Though half a century has already passed since OSU’s 100th birthday, the university’s aspirations for a better future remain unchanged, and even in the face of a constantly changing future Buckeyes refuse to settle for simply solving today’s problems. Just as our predecessors did fifty years ago, we look towards a better future: one with OSU’s students at the helm, inspiring a better tomorrow.

 

Timeline of OSU’s Centennial Year

OSU’s Centennial had hundreds of events throughout 1970, but these were the highlights, focused largely on Spring Quarter:

January 10 – Centennial Year Opening Program at the Ohio Union

February 12-13 – Centennial Symposium at the Mershon Center

March 20-22 – Charter Weekend, the highlight of the year’s many celebrations

March 20 – Centennial Ball

March 21 – Presentation of Centennial Awards

March 21 – Dedication of Thurber Alcove and the Thurber Collection at Thompson Library

April 21-25, April 27-May 2 – Centennial Theatre Production

April 24-25 – Centennial Conference on the Humanities at the Mershon Center

Throughout the year – A traveling exhibit of OSU’s history was displayed in over 50 places across the State of Ohio, highlighting the studies of the university’s freshmen and sophomores.

Written by Beth Crowner.

Cutting a Rug: Fifty Years of Formal Dances

Spring Dance, 1936

While formal socials and dances aren’t a part of University life anymore, they were quite popular during the early 20th Century as a way to meet people and relax. Formal dances, such as many of the military balls held from the 1900s to the 1950s, were also a socially acceptable way to date.

The formal Spring Dance was a campus wide social, where black tie suits and formal gowns were dusted off each spring for a festive gala. Here, Wesley Leas dances with an unnamed partner, stopping to smile for the camera. Wesley, or ‘Wes’ as he preferred to be called, was the president of the senior class two years later in 1938, as well as being The Best Damn Band in The Land’s drum major. An engineering major, Wes also managed to find the spare time to involve himself in a number of campus organizations and social clubs, such as the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, the Ohio Staters Inc., the Quadrangle Jesters, and the fraternities of Kappa Kappa Psi and Sigma Chi. In spite of this busy schedule, Wes still found time to focus on his studies and find a date to the Spring Dance formal!

9th Regimental Hop, 1910

The “Regimental Hop” was a formal military dance held semi-annually at OSU, often a freshman’s first formal dance. The dances were put on by the regiment’s officers, and typically held at the Armory on campus. The first Regimental Hop was held on May 18th, 1906, and by 1910, the dances had become a regular feature of the social calendar. The Regimental Hop was relatively popular, often with 200 or more students buying tickets to attend despite the cost of admission – a $1 ticket in 1910 is about $25 in 2020!

Military Ball, 1938

The annual military ball was another popular formal held at Ohio State, which anyone could attend, provided they purchased a ticket from one of the students in advanced military training. Attendance was limited to 1,000, and the tickets were $3.50 for each couple, roughly $62 in 2020! Part of the high cost of attendance for the 1938 dance may have been used to cover the cost of the musicians – $2,000, which The Ohio State Lantern reports was “more than any band has received in the history of the University”. Paying the equivalent of almost $36,000 in today’s money to hire the band is unsurprising, however, considering Hal Kemp’s popularity. The musician had become a popular jazz saxophonist, recording for songs such as “You’re the Top” and “Lullaby of Broadway”, which was a hit in 1935. The military ball was one of the last professional engagements he and his band would play, due to a fatal car crash two years later in 1940.

Military Dance Band, 1946

As World War II finally ended in September, 1945, many military “sociables” naturally shifted to the veterans of the war who were finally returning home after years of fighting in Europe and the South Pacific. Veteran’s groups and associations became a fixture of campus life, and one such group decided to form a dance band, holding a contest in April during the All Veterans’ Campus Mixer to determine the name. The 16 piece ensemble, led by Harry Chorpenning, became known as the “All Ohioans” thanks to William Wilson’s winning entry, and included a female vocalist who accompanied some of the pieces.

Mansfield Club Dance, 1948

Dances didn’t always center around military officers or campus-wide events, however – some were smaller, more intimate affairs that included members of a sorority or fraternity, members of campus clubs or organizations, or even social groups, such as the Mansfield Club. To be a member of the Mansfield Club, all a student had to do was prove they were from Mansfield, Ohio. The boundaries were later extended to include all of Richland County, in an effort to boost membership. This particular photo was taken during the 1948 February “Winter Whirl” dance, during winter quarter, which included a homey, small town feel in the decorations. Couples danced to Bus Brown’s trio of musicians and refreshed themselves at the bar with bottles of Coca-Cola. The dance ended at midnight, with the song “Home Sweet Home” playing.

Despite the popularity of dances in the first half of the 20th century, university sponsored dances have since fallen out of favor.

Written by Beth Crowner.

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