Taking on a New Chapter: Paul Watkins

September 18, 2012

A lifelong book lover, Paul Watkins signed on to work for SBX (Student Book Exchange) on High Street even before he took his first class at Ohio State. He liked the job so well that he stayed on while earning a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy.

After graduating in 1958, Watkins accepted a promotion to book department manager rather than pursue a position in his field of study. He eventually became part owner of SBX and helped grow the company, which specializes in collegiate level textbooks, to a multi-state operation with locations in a total of eight states.

“The best part about SBX for me was working with students from around the world who chose to come to Ohio State,” said Watkins, who received the university’s Distinguished Service Award in 1991 and the John B. Gerlach Sr. Development Volunteer Award in 1998. He is also recognized by the President’s Club and serves on the President’s Club Advisory Board.

“Being a part of the President’s Club provides access to detailed information on the university’s needs and how it operates,” he said. “You learn about the aims and goals for the future.”

Watkins supports areas of campus where he believes there’s a strong need. “During the 1970s, I began giving to the humanities because this area didn’t receive as much as other departments. Of interest to me are English, history, philosophy, social work, and the Thompson Memorial Library.”

The native of Bellefontaine, Ohio, credits his parents—his father was a high school administrator, his mother an English teacher—with instilling a desire and appreciation for higher education. His older brother launched the Buckeye tradition and his children carried it forward. Watkins’ daughters Wendy and Susan graduated from Ohio State and are now university employees. His son, Rob, completed two years before transferring to Ohio University.

“Ohio State is a better university than when I arrived in 1953,” Watkins said. “I credit the generosity of donors with improving the quality. I’m so proud of the standards that are now in place academically. Students these days are very focused and know what they want.” 

After 53 years as manager and owner of SBX, Watkins has retired. Even so, his life hasn’t slowed down. He continues to enjoy time with students by volunteering at the newly reopened library and being active with the Friends of the Libraries, the Alumni Advisory Council, and several other community organizations.

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