From Woody's Couch

Our Playbook on OSU History

Category: Obituaries (page 1 of 2)

Obituary: Charles O. Ross

Charles Ross, 1970

Charles Ross, 1970

We are saddened to hear of the passing of longtime OSU Professor Charles O. Ross, who died last week at the age of 79. For decades, he was a constant champion of issues of racial equality, even when it cost him his job as director of the black studies department.

After the campus riots of 1970, the University approved a plan for a new Department of Black Studies. Ross, a professor of social work, was chosen as its first director. Immediately, Ross demanded more money for the program, and he pushed for substantive changes related to African-American involvement on campus, such as recruitment of much larger numbers of black students to the University.

Ross was also politically active and was involved in a movement to organize high school students. Racial disturbances subsequently occurred at area high schools, and the OSU Board of Trustees, displeased with Ross’ involvement, fired him from the directorship a year after he was hired.

Ross, 1988

Ross, 1988

Ross continued to be an outspoken figure throughout his tenure: In 1993, for instance, he briefly occupied the office of the then-new Dean of Social Work, Beverly Toomey, to protest then-Provost Jean Huber’s decision to hire Toomey over him. According to The Lantern, Toomey was named Dean, despite a faculty recommendation in favor of Ross, who called the Provost’s decision racist, but filed no legal action on the matter.

Despite his sometimes contentious relationship with the University, Ross remained at OSU for 35 years, and in 2006, the Board of Trustees awarded him the title of associate professor emeritus upon his retirement.

Read a Columbus Dispatch obituary here:



In Memory of Robert M. Duncan

Robert Duncan

Robert M. Duncan, who passed away Friday at the age of 85, made many contributions to the local community. But we’d like to focus on his long and impressive commitment to the University, his alma mater.

Duncan was born in Urbana, Ohio, and entered The Ohio State University to study education in the 1940s. In an oral history interview he gave to the Archives in 2011, Duncan remembers wanting to come to Ohio State because his aunt and uncle lived in Columbus, so he would have a place to live. Like many African-Americans of the time, he lived in east Columbus and rode a street car to campus. While at OSU, Duncan was a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity; he graduated in 1948 with a bachelor’s degree in education.

After graduation Duncan had a difficult time getting a job, so he moved to Chicago in search of better opportunities. After working as a bellman and sometimes as a substitute teacher, Duncan decided to return to Columbus and pursue a law degree at The Ohio State University. While pursuing his law degree, Duncan was elected president of his class and worked at the statehouse for fellow OSU alumnus William B. Saxbe, who later served as U.S. Attorney General.

Duncan giving commencement speech in Dec. 1979

Following law school Duncan served during the Korean War for two years, then returned to Columbus. He went into private practice, but didn’t like it, so he started on a long career of public service, first as a state assistant attorney general, then as a Franklin County judge, then as a member of the Supreme Court of Ohio, the first African American to do so. In 1974, President Richard Nixon appointed him to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. He was the first African-American judge to be appointed to the federal bench in Ohio, and in this position Duncan wrote the order ending segregation in the Columbus Public Schools.

During his jurist career, Duncan maintained a close relationship with OSU, using law school students as externs in his office and teaching at the law school as an adjunct professor. His relationship solidified in 1992, when he was appointed vice president and general counsel to The Ohio State University. During that time he established the University’s first Office of Legal Affairs.  He also served as secretary to the Ohio State University Board of Trustees and served a nine-year term on the Board of Trustees. In addition, Duncan was on the Executive Committee of the Presidents Club and was chairman of the University Hospital Board.  He was a past president of the law school’s Alumni Association, was a former Distinguished Jurist in Residence at Moritz, and served as an honorary member of the College’s National Council.

The awards and recognitions Judge Duncan received also reflected his numerous endeavors in Columbus and beyond during his lifetime of service. Among the honors was the Ohio State University Distinguished Alumnus Award. In his oral history interview, he helps explain his lifelong attachment to the University:

I remember the first day I came on campus.  …  My first class was in University Hall, which was a history class.  People were extremely friendly.  … I met another African American guy from Ironton, a guy named Marty Gibbs, who is still a friend of mine.  …  After class we walked across campus to the old Ohio Union, which is now Enarson Hall. I remember walking into the grill room on the ground floor.  There was a jukebox.  And I remember hearing the Nat King Cole Trio on the juke box, playing “Route 66.”  And I looked around the room and there were all these coeds around there and said, “This is where I need to be.  This is a wonderful place.”  It was a great first day. And I suppose that sort of emotional effect of being at the University has never left me through all the subsequent 65 years. 

To learn more about Judge Duncan in his own words please read his oral history in the Knowledge Bank. (

Duncan in 1993

In remembrance: Charlotte Remenyik, OSU fencing coach

We were saddened to hear of the death of former OSU fencing coach, Charlotte Remenyik, on December 21, 2011.

Remenyik gives a coaching tip to a fencing student, 1981

Her success as a coach at OSU was just the tip of the iceberg of what was a fascinating life:

Remenyik was born on Sept. 5, 1934, in Hungary, an only child to parents of the upper middle class of that country. She learned to fence at a young age. In an interview conducted by OSU Quest in 1981 she said: “I love sabre fencing the best…Although they don’t allow women to compete in sabre or epée, only foil, that is what I grew up with in Hungary—in Transylvania. My cousins, all boys, would come home from military school on vacation, and they would practice their sabre fencing. I was the youngest cousin and the only girl, and they would say, ‘No, Charlotte, you cannot do that. You are a girl, and you are too small.’ I guess that irked me enough to go out and learn sabre.”

Remenyik was just five years old when World War II broke out in Europe. When the war ended, the Russians occupied Hungary, and “we ended up on the wrong side of the peace treaty,” she said in a 2001 OSU Archives oral history interview. “That changed life drastically. During the war, we had shortages of food, bombings and air-raids, but life until 1945 was pretty good for me. [The change] started when I was declared the enemy of the state because of my birth, because of my family.”

Remenyik fled Hungary after the revolution in 1956. When she arrived in Chicago with her husband she knew she wanted to teach fencing, but she had only a high school education and spoke only Hungarian. “My husband got a job in Chicago in a factory and I also worked in the same factory for a while,” she recounted in the oral history interview. “Later I advanced to the office because I knew how to add, subtract, multiply and divide.  I did payroll.  Didn’t need to speak a lot of English. Chicago was like outer Siberia as far as fencing was concerned.”

She quickly learned English, though, and set about getting an education that would make teaching fencing a reality. Remenyik received her associate’s degree from W.R. Harper College in Illinois in 1971, then she went to Northwestern University where she received her bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1973. All the while Remenyik continued to compete throughout the Midwest, including ranking 11th at the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1972. After graduation she became the women’s fencing coach at Northwestern, where her team won championships under her leadership for five years. The Remenyik Open competition at Northwestern is named in her honor.

1984 portrait of Remenyik

In 1978 Charlotte Remenyik came to Ohio State to coach the OSU women, which a few years later would include her daughter, Csilla. In the fall of 1980 she made OSU history by becoming the first woman to coach a men’s varsity team—and as the first woman to coach both the men and the women concurrently. Both teams did very well, even though at that time many of the men were recruited from the beginning fencing classes at OSU. The women’s team, on the other hand, had scholarships, which attracted top fencers to OSU. Under Remenyik’s leadership from 1981 to 1984, the women won the Big Ten title each year, and the men placed third in the 1985 Big Ten Championships. In all, her programs turned out sixteen All-Americans. She also served on the NCAA Sports Committee for Fencing (1981-86), designing the format for the women’s NCAA championships. It was later used as the model for the men’s championships.

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