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Our Playbook on OSU History

Category: Events (page 1 of 12)

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.

 

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.

100 Years Later and Still Growing

One hundred years ago, Ohio State’s Columbus central campus had a similar footprint to today, with the bulk of central campus occupying the blocks west of High St. between Lane Ave. and 10th Ave. Predictably, there were far fewer buildings on campus and University leadership was in the process of planning what the future of OSU would hold, architecturally. In 1919, University Architect J.N. Bradford drafted a map of the existing campus buildings, and those that were proposed to be developed in the coming years.

The return of students and teachers from World War I and the subsequent increase in enrollment at the University drove, at least in part, the planning of new buildings across campus. While funding issues unfortunately stunted most construction on campus immediately following the war, the planned expansion reflects the growing attendance and influence of universities throughout the country. A century later, it makes for an interesting look at where the University was potentially headed and a comparison to what we have today.

 

Bradford’s proposed campus map, 1919

Central Campus Map, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: contemporary existing buildings on Bradford’s map are filled in black, while the proposed expansions are hatch shaded.

Notable observations:

  • Ohio Stadium, not yet built in 1919, was planned on a fairly undeveloped tract of land near the Olentangy River banks. The RPAC and Physical Activity and Education Services building, on the site of the proposed gymnasium expansion (F on Bradford map), athletic fields, and the Morrill Tower dormitory have brought development right to the stadium.
  • Once occupying Hale Hall, the new Ohio Union building is significantly larger than its initial space. The proposed expansion to Hale adding men’s dormitories did not take place.
  • One of the original and founding focuses of the University, most of the Agricultural and Veterinary colleges’ buildings (8-11 on Bradford map) have since moved west across the Olentangy as OSU has expanded.
  • Starling-Loving Hall, once a sole building (Homeopathic Hospital, 1 on Bradford) has developed into a leading and nationally ranked medical center, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
  • Lazenby Hall and immediately west formerly contained horticultural sciences and greenhouses (5 and 4 on Bradford); these areas are now occupied by the Psychology and Public Health Departments, and the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion.
  • The Wexner Center for the Arts is built roughly on the site of the campus Armory building (20 on Bradford), and incorporated its medieval turret architecture into part of the design of the building.

Written by Matt McShane.

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