2020 Alumni Awards
Jeffrey M. Wittmann ’76 — Josephine Sitterle Failer Award
What is the Josephine Sitterle Failer Award?
Awarded to those whose voluntary personal involvement has enhanced the quality of student life at the university beyond the call of business or professional duty.
Qualities that lead to connections
Students can soar when you ask the right questions, absorb their answers and encourage them to follow their hearts.
By Michael Nye
Jeff Wittmann ’76 has a keen ear and a supportive nature — traits that have benefited many Ohio State students through the years.
Along with his wife, Amy Alcorn Wittmann ’80, he has devoted abundant time and energy to supporting students through BuckeyeThon, which raises awareness and funds for kids with cancer and is Ohio’s largest student-run philanthropic effort. He’s also involved in the Buckeye Leadership Fellows Program, through which he serves as a mentor. With a focus always centered on people, he shows students he believes in them by listening carefully and fostering their sense of discovery.
What drives your personal passion for giving back to students?
My experience with the Office of Student Life started through Amy’s volunteer work. When we learned about BuckeyeThon, it was my awakening. To see a student-led fundraising event run with such energy, efficiency and passion was inspiring. From that night on, more opportunities came about to meet, work with and get to know the students on an individual basis.
This led to your involvement with the Buckeye Leadership Fellows Program. Tell us about those students.
What I found was a group of smart, diverse and engaged students who want to make a difference at the university and in the world. Even with our current health crisis, I’ve found the students are undeterred, excited and hopeful. They are looking ahead to the next step, moving on with their careers and paying it forward. All of them are thrilled with their time at Ohio State and their education. The university has really branched out into the community, which is all for the better.
How did your Ohio State experience contribute to the person you are today?
While Ohio State was a very different place when I was a student, it had incredible resources, even if you had to dig a bit. I was able to design a curriculum around Islamic studies of art history, history, philosophy and languages. Forty-some years later, I would make the same choice. In today’s world, I have more insight and understanding of what is going on. An undergraduate degree can prepare you for careers in hard sciences, business or other disciplines, but more importantly, it can also give you a foundation of curiosity for lifelong learning.
How did you find out you were being honored by the alumni association? How did you feel?
Actually, I found out on a Zoom call! I was pleased and flattered to receive this honor, and the fact that my wife also received the same award last year is really incredible. I don’t expect recognition like this, and being familiar with what it was, I was overwhelmed.