The Ohio State University Alumni Association

2021 Alumni Awards

David Emerling ’81 – Dan L. Heinlen Award

Presented to alumni who have realized outstanding achievements in advancing the university by advocating for its interests with one or more of its important audiences. It recognizes achievement in activities ranging from the recruitment of outstanding students and faculty to the University, to advocacy with elected officials and opinion leaders on behalf of Ohio State.

headshot of David Emerling

Creating Buckeye bonds for life

Those who know David Emerling ’81 say he has a superpower: recruiting alumni to join and lead the Alumni Club of Detroit.

Over 40 years, he’s held every leadership role in the chapter, which earned The Ohio State University Alumni Association’s 2020 Club of the Year Award, and he’s brought hundreds of members into the club.

Emerling leads the way by raising thousands of dollars for Ohio State scholarships, recruiting students, creating a group for young alumni and spearheading events to raise money for Detroit residents in need.

After 29 years as an automotive engineer, Emerling took a job as industry collaborations director for the Center for Automotive Research at Ohio State. He’s based in Detroit, combining his passion for work with his zeal for his alma mater.

How do you inspire others to do great things?

You can’t run a club by one person; you’ve got to have help. The key is finding people’s passions — what they do the best and what they want to do. Let them go at it and give them control.

How do alumni benefit from being part of an alumni chapter?

We have a lot of fun at our events, and the networking is phenomenal. Beyond that, a lot of people feel like the university got them to where they are today, and they want to give back by recruiting students or fundraising. But I think the real reason people get involved is that they like being with other Buckeyes. It’s a bond for life.

What’s your favorite Ohio State memory?

The Ohio State-Michigan game my freshman year. I lived in Taylor Tower, and we all coordinated our dorm lights to write OSU on the face of the tower. When we won that game, we thew confetti out the windows and went to High Street for the victory celebration, which was just crazy.

What’s it like being a Buckeye fan in the heart of Michigan?

It’s actually quite fun. I think our alumni are drawn together more than if we lived in any other state because of the intense rivalry. It’s important to stay together and have our safe places. My tagline for years has been “It’s a great time to be a Buckeye in Michigan.”


See all 2021 Alumni Award honorees