From Woody's Couch

Our Playbook on OSU History

Category: Commencement (page 1 of 3)

Twelve Days: For Woody Hayes and others, the Archives aims to ‘pay it forward’

(In celebration of the University Archives’ upcoming 50th Anniversary in 2015, we bring you “The Twelve Days of Buckeyes.” This is the last of a series of 12 blog posts highlighting the people who were instrumental in the creation and growth of the Archives. Stay tuned for more posts and other announcements related to our anniversary celebration next year.)

Woody Hayes, 1963

Woody Hayes, 1963

It’s been nearly 30 years since Woody Hayes’ death, yet his legacy is still very much alive for many people. Even OSU students who hadn’t yet been born when he died in 1987 know about Hayes. And although many these days can’t name many details – such as the fact that he still has the most national championships of any OSU football coach – they almost invariably can recall that he was some kind of an important figure at the University.

We would like to think that the Archives contributes a little to this continuing legacy.

The Archives has housed the Woody Hayes Papers since 1990, when his widow, Anne, donated them to the University. The collection includes papers, books, awards, memorabilia, photos and other effects.

Anne Hayes, n.d.

Anne Hayes, n.d.

Though it is larger than most, the collection of roughly 75 boxes is very similar to the dozens of faculty and staff collections housed here. Each collection’s materials document the careers of the people who have worked at OSU. Like many of these collections, though, Hayes’ goes beyond mere documentation of a career. His materials reflect a person whose job title was coach, but whose contributions to the University and community went far beyond that. Consider:

– Photos from his own U.S. Navy service during World War II. In these, Hayes is incredibly young but already shows leadership skills that would he would use for 27 years as OSU football coach. (He achieved the rank of Lt. Commander and was in charge of both a patrol boat in the Palau Islands and a destroyer escort.)

Hayes, (center), with two unidentified men, n.d.

Hayes, (center), with two unidentified men during WWII

– A wooden clock with a plate inscribed “Bryant-Foust Crippled Children’s Day Award presented to Woody Hayes…,” given to him in 1986. Hayes was a big supporter of charities that involved children and regularly visited patients at Columbus’ Children’s Hospital.

Letter from Richard Nixon, 1979

Letter from Richard Nixon, 1979

Correspondence with VIPs that include the likes of Bob Hope and Richard Nixon, both of whom Hayes considered friends. Nixon even gave the eulogy at Hayes’ funeral.

Hayes at 1986 commencement

Hayes at 1986 commencement

– A videotape of Hayes’ speech at the 1986 Winter Commencement ceremony, just a year before he died. It shows a frail, elderly but grateful man who was still spurring people to “pay it forward.”

As Hayes’ encouraged, we at the Archives hope we can “pay it forward” to the community by not only preserving such materials but making them available to researchers, classes and the community for years to come.

To learn more about Woody Hayes, please see our web exhibit commemorating the anniversary of his 100th birthday

You can also read a transcript of his Commencement speech.


Commencement speakers talk of tough world grads head out to tackle

1968 graduates

1968 graduates

Broadcast journalists and commentators have a national stage from which they share information and sometimes opinions on the world. Some of them have traveled to OSU over the years to give their thoughts on current news and events on a different stage – the one temporarily raised on Ohio Stadium’s football field for Spring Commencement.


The first to visit Ohio State was none other than then CBS News Anchor Walter Cronkite, who spoke at the June 1968 Commencement. It was a dark period in the nation’s history – the Vietnam War was escalating, Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in April of that year, and just three days before Commencement, Robert Kennedy Jr. was shot and killed as well. Not surprisingly, Cronkite’s comments reflected the national mood:


Walter Cronkite, 1968

Walter Cronkite, 1968

“There are a lot of things wrong with this world. We can scarcely stand here in the shadow of the tragedy that has overwhelmed us, without acknowledging that there is a great deal wrong. … Violence and the most cowardly of crimes – assassination – are high on the list. But the list is so long of real or alleged wrongs: …”


He then went on to list a long litany of depressing aspects of the then-current affairs, then shifted to why there was so much student dissent and questioned whether it would have a positive outcome. After all of that, Cronkite, who was speaking to thousands of young people facing an unknown future, apparently decided he should somehow lift their spirits in the end:


“…while the challenges of today seem frightening in their complexity, there is no reason for despair. The more and the greater the challenges, … the more exciting the prospect of the combat and the sweeter the taste of victory.”


Barbara Walters, 1971

Barbara Walters, 1971

In 1971, Barbara Walters, who will retire this month after a 38-year career in broadcast journalism, decided to tackle just one of the many issues Cronkite discussed: women’s rights. “There is work to be done to improve and equalize the status of women in education, occupation, salary, property rights and marital laws. …,” she said. At the time, she determined that the women’s liberation movement had accomplished much of what it set out to do and the need to continue the debate was not that great:


“We are the women in our thirties and forties who are saying, ‘Is that all there is?’ You [the female graduates] are not, need not, and probably will not ever have to ask that question. You can work or not as you wish … marry or not … have children or not… without being condemned in any way by society.”


Of course, forty-plus years later, that debate still rages on. (For example: “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, a manifesto for working women, was met with a great furor when it was published last year.) So it would be interesting to see what the Barbara Walters of today thought about her speech in 1971.


Erin Moriarity, 2004

Erin Moriarty, 2004

In 2004, Erin Moriarty, a CBS News correspondent, also listed the various ills facing the world – it was, after all, only three years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 – but she told graduates that they could overcome the many obstacles facing them by embracing their “inner Buckeye.” An OSU graduate herself, she listed the many terrifying stories she had covered during her career, but said that the risks were worth taking. Then she did something unexpected: She told graduates to turn off the TV.


“What I mean is don’t live your life as a spectator who changes the scenery with a click of that remote control … Don’t be a ditto head, think for yourself. Here at Ohio State you have learned how to learn. Use those skills to educate yourself. Knowing you have those skills, don’t be afraid to take some risks. … And never forget where you came from.”


Naturally, Moriarty ended her speech with “Go Bucks.” Four years later, NBC News Anchor Brian Williams began his with “O-H.” And his speech was peppered with jokes (mostly about the University of Michigan) and other moments of levity. Like Cronkite fifty years earlier, though, Williams talked about how broken the nation was. “We need you to fix this country,” he said.


He then went on to talk about the then-117 million blogs being written on a regular basis and how most of them were about the people writing them. “And the problem is, we need to start talking about us, all of us. We need to start thinking of us as the collective, the United States we used to know. It is going to require a lot of work.”


He said, though, that the soon-to-be OSU graduates would be up to the task.

“And ladies and gentlemen, members of this graduating class, members of graduate studies, wherever you go, please tell them you’re a Buckeye. There is nothing wrong with America that someone from Ohio State can’t fix.” 


For a list of these and other commencement speeches, and links to their texts, visit:

He said what? Match the Commander in Chief to the Commencement speech

When President Barack Obama steps up to the podium at Commencement on Sunday, he will be the fifth U.S. President to do so. Obama is actually the third sitting U.S. President to speak at an OSU Commencement; he follows Gerald R. Ford and George W. Bush in that role. Other U.S. Presidents have spoken, but not while they were in office. George H.W. Bush spoke while he was still in his first term as Vice President under Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton spoke seven years after he left office.


Below, we’ve printed short portions of their commencement speech transcripts. See if you can match the speech to the President. Answers are at the bottom of the blog, as is a link to the page on our web site where you can find a list of all our commencement speeches, as well as links to speech transcripts. You may find this exercise harder than it sounds. It turns out commencement speakers often talk about the same things that are perennially important to new graduates: job prospects and the economy in general, their future role in society, and the future of both the nation and the planet. Good luck!


Speech No. 1:

As fellow human beings, we celebrate the rising capacities of the Chinese nation, a people with firm belief in their own destiny. However, as Americans, motivated by free competition, we see a distant challenge. And I believe all Americans welcome that challenge. We must compete internationally not only to maintain the balance of trade in our standard of living, but to offer to the world’s impoverished examples and opportunities of a better life. We should do that for humane and for perhaps even self-interest. … And I am confident that America’s youth will make the difference. You are America’s greatest untapped source of energy. But energy unused is energy wasted. …


 Speech 2:

Some believe [a] lesson in service is fading … Your generation will respond to these skeptics – one way or another. You will determine whether our new ethic of responsibility is the break of a wave, or the rise of a tide. You will determine whether we become a culture of selfishness and look inward – or whether we will embrace a culture of service and look outward. Because this decision is in your hands, I’m confident of the outcome. Your class and your generation understand the need for personal responsibility – so you will make a culture of service a permanent part of American life.


Speech No. 3:

Your most immediate concern is probably the economy. Most of you will be leaving her to go out and look for jobs, and while I can’t promise it will be easy, I can tell you that the overall economic picture looks better than it has in a long time. … All the indications are that this recovery that we’re in the middle of now is strong and will be lasting. … The greatest danger that we as a nation now face is the psychology of fear of retrenchment – that means giving up on the promise of the future, holding tightly to the past, even as it steadily shrinks and dwindles in our grasp.


Speech No. 4:

First, it is necessary to understand the promise and peril of the 21st century world, an age of unprecedented interdependence for good or ill. Interdependence simply means we can’t escape each other. A lot of it is exciting … But interdependence also means we share common vulnerabilities to terror, to weapons of mass destruction, to diseases like avian influenza, to the rampant inequalities in the world, to all the political conflicts rooted in religious and ethnic identities, to climate change … We can’t escape on another’s challenges. … We have to see each other because, in an interdependent world, we really can’t succeed without each other. That will be your great challenge. …



President Ford, 1974

President Ford, 1974


Speech 1: Gerald R. Ford spoke at the Summer Commencement ceremony on August 30, 1974 – barely a month after being sworn into nation’s highest office after Richard Nixon resigned. Ford had been to China several months before in his official capacity as then-Vice President.





President Bush, 2002

President Bush, 2002

Speech 2:  George W. Bush spoke at the Spring Commencement ceremony on June 14, 2002 – just three months shy of the first-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. At the time, many young people were joining the military, training to become firefighters and police officers, and generally trying to find ways to serve their country in the aftermath of the terrorist attack that killed more than 3,000 people, including Pentagon military personnel, and New York firefighters and police officers.



Bush, 1983

Vice President Bush, 1983


Speech 3: George W. Bush’s father, George H.W., spoke on June 10, 1983, at the Spring Commencement ceremony, while still serving as Vice President under Ronald Reagan. After a two-year recession at the beginning of that decade, the country was experiencing sustained growth at the time Bush spoke and would continue in this pattern until 1990.



Bill Clinton, 2007

Clinton, 2007


Speech 4: Bill Clinton spoke on June 10, 2007, at the Spring Commencement ceremony, seven years after he left office. In 2005, Clinton formed the Clinton Global Initiative to bring together young people who are committed to solving issues of global importance.





Visit our website for a list of commencement addresses with links to transcripts.

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