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Our Playbook on OSU History

Category: World War I (page 1 of 2)

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.


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.

Poetry brings the war to Ohio State

This blog post is part of a World War I series.  Throughout 2017,  we will be posting student blogs relating to Ohio State and its involvement in the war.

Inspired by the legacies of Homer, Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Walt Whitman, poets of the Great War wrote verse that recorded their experiences on the front. By reading war poems, those who were lucky enough to stay home could understand and imagine the perspectives of the soldiers. Some of these poems were published in The Lantern, coordinating with Professor Joseph Villiers Denney’s research and lectures on the subject.

Featured here are a few of the poems that were published in The Lantern. These poems, as well as the others published in The Lantern, are fairly simple. They have mass appeal and avoid confusing symbols and indulgent imagery. Rather, these poems avoid a complex rhyme scheme, consisting mostly of literal language and including motifs of nationalist symbols. Ohio State Professor of Journalism Osman C. Hooper focused on the songs of the Liberty Bell, appealing to patriotic American readers. Hooper writes to the Liberty Bell, desperate for its song to bring peace and solace to the world. This poem, published in Columbus in 1916, expresses the idealist and isolationist mindset that occupied most Americans. Since these fresh poets did not feel the need to follow traditional expectations or standards, World War I poetry is unorthodox and unique. Lieutenant Colonel John McCrea of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces wrote a poem titled In Flanders’ Fields about the dead lying in open fields. Inspired to write an answer to this poem, a Columbus librarian, C.B. Galbreath, penned a poem of the same name. Galbreath honored those who have fallen in Flanders’ Fields, comforting the Lieutenant Colonel. By interacting with a soldier on the front, Galbreath was able to bring the war home. When these poems were written the United States had yet to join the war so these poems allowed readers to connect with the conflict overseas. This conversational poem is consistent with other WWI poems that transform traditional poetry to more casual and playful. By not following specific rhythm, length or composition requirements, these poems are able to achieve great diversity. This broad range of poems and poets provided Joseph Denney with vast material to use in his upcoming lectures and essays.

After graduating from University of Michigan in 1885 and a short stint as a journalist and high school principal, Joseph Villiers Denney came to Ohio State in 1891 as an associate professor of rhetoric. In three short years, Denney was promoted to full professor. Over the next forty years, Denney made his mark on the university, performing a variety of roles. His position was constantly evolving as he moved from professor to Secretary of the Faculty to, eventually, Dean of the College of Arts, Philosophy and Science. Denney’s experience in a wide array of roles at the university made him well known and beloved by the faculty and students. Much of the work throughout his career was published in a variety of outlets, spreading across the country and occasionally across seas. In 1918, when Denney concluded his research on war poetry, he made the rounds across campus, visiting various clubs and lecturing around the city.

Joseph Denney, 1926

In 1918, Denney published his paper titled “War and Poetry” in The Ohio State University Monthly. He argued that the ideals for which the Great War was fought also made their way into poetry. Great advancements of the 20th century improved lives and inspired people to live more intensely. This new ferocity for life is evident in the poems of the Great War. Not only does their previous life give soldiers something to fight for on the battlefield but it also provides comfort and nostalgia while reminiscing in down time. Professor Denney writes that the War expanded the ordinary man’s senses, augmenting the sensation of life and soldiers captured these phenomena in the verses of the War.

Regardless of the greatness or longevity of the verses, poems of the Great War succeeded in communicating the experiences of war to those left at home. Denney argues that this literature is essential to bonding a nation’s population. This poetry generates understanding and enthusiasm, thus uniting the people of a nation. As the students of the University and people of Columbus were reading these verses and hearing Denney’s lectures, they were certainly bonded over the poetry of the Great War.

Written by Tyler Osborne.

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