The Ohio State University Alumni Association

Meet the nine accomplished recipients of this year's prestigious awards

Naomi Adaniya
William Oxley Thompson Alumni Award
Naomi Adaniya employs her compassion and education in work that is turning the tide in America's raging opioid epidemic.
Jump to her story
Naomi Adaniya
William Oxley Thompson Alumni Award
Naomi Adaniya employs her compassion and education in work that is turning the tide in America's raging opioid epidemic.
Jump to her story
Quinn Capers IV
Diversity Champion Award
Ohio State's College of Medicine is a leader in diversity, largely thanks to the advocacy and initiative of Dr. Quinn Capers.
Jump to his story
Quinn Capers IV
Diversity Champion Award
Ohio State's College of Medicine is a leader in diversity, largely thanks to the advocacy and initiative of Dr. Quinn Capers.
Jump to his story
Shelley Graf
Ralph Davenport Mershon Award
Shelley Graf transitioned from drum major to major supporter right after graduation. Too numerous to mention, her good deeds for the marching band are a source of admiration and motivation.
Jump to her story
Shelley Graf
Ralph Davenport Mershon Award
Shelley Graf transitioned from drum major to major supporter right after graduation. Too numerous to mention, her good deeds for the marching band are a source of admiration and motivation.
Jump to her story
Lori Herman
Dan L. Heinlen Award
A believer in Ohio State and Ford Motor Co., Lori Herman discovers and nurtures win-win situations for her alma mater and employer alike.
Jump to her story
Lori Herman
Dan L. Heinlen Award
A believer in Ohio State and Ford Motor Co., Lori Herman discovers and nurtures win-win situations for her alma mater and employer alike.
Jump to her story
Rattan Lal
Alumni Medalist Award
Known the world over for his groundbreaking work on global issues, Rattan Lal treasures his ties with Ohio State students and colleagues.
Jump to his story
Rattan Lal
Alumni Medalist Award
Known the world over for his groundbreaking work on global issues, Rattan Lal treasures his ties with Ohio State students and colleagues.
Jump to his story
Naval ROTC
E. Gordon Gee Spirit of Ohio State Award
Naval ROTC midshipmen earn kudos for 30 years of post-game Ohio Stadium sweeps that help us stand out from the field in sustainability.
Jump to their story
Naval ROTC
E. Gordon Gee Spirit of Ohio State Award
Naval ROTC midshipmen earn kudos for 30 years of post-game Ohio Stadium sweeps that help us stand out from the field in sustainability.
Jump to their story
Herbert Robinson
Robert M. Duncan Alumni Citizenship Award
Herb Robinson gives selflessly to better his community, often spending the equivalent of a full work week on the causes he supports.
Jump to his story
Herbert Robinson
Robert M. Duncan Alumni Citizenship Award
Herb Robinson gives selflessly to better his community, often spending the equivalent of a full work week on the causes he supports.
Jump to his story
Paul Stromberg
Archie M. Griffin Professional Achievement Award
Paul Stromberg pursued a high school interest and three degrees to a career that has made a lasting imprint on the field of pathology.
Jump to his story
Paul Stromberg
Archie M. Griffin Professional Achievement Award
Paul Stromberg pursued a high school interest and three degrees to a career that has made a lasting imprint on the field of pathology.
Jump to his story
Amy Wittmann
Josephine Sitterle Failer Award
Amy Alcorn Wittmann followed a friend's advice to a range of fulfilling roles that allow her to work with Ohio State students.
Jump to her story
Amy Wittmann
Josephine Sitterle Failer Award
Amy Alcorn Wittmann followed a friend's advice to a range of fulfilling roles that allow her to work with Ohio State students.
Jump to her story


Honoree 1 of 9

Naomi Adaniya ’10 MPH, ’13 MA, ’16 PhD

Awarded to young alumni who have demonstrated distinctive achievement in a career, civic involvement or both. Nominees must be 35 years or younger.

Naomi Adaniya smiling

Navigating troubled landscape

Naomi Adaniya employs her compassion and education in work that is turning the tide in America's raging opioid epidemic.

By Lynne M. Bonenberger

Naomi Adaniya’s style of public service hinges on helping individuals and communities through a blend of compassion and hard numbers. That has made her an influential young leader in Washington, D.C., as director of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Health Care Fraud Data Analytics Team.

Adaniya ’10 MPH, ’13 MA, ’16 PhD and her colleagues support investigations into fraud and opioid abuse by collecting information and tracking trends across the nation. They also collaborate with other agencies each year in sweeping law enforcement actions aimed at stemming the crisis. In a two-week period in 2018, for example, their coordinated efforts led to the indictment of more than 600 individuals — including doctors, nurses and other medical professionals — involved in more than $2 billion in fraud.

One reason opioid abuse has become so rampant is the health care system wasn’t sufficiently focused on patients, Adaniya says. Now, recent findings from her team reveal a glimmer of light at the end of a long tunnel of despair.

“The rate of increase in the number of fatal opioid overdoses has finally leveled off after growing every year,” she says. “It’s important when you’re fighting a crisis to not always be bogged down in the negatives. You have to celebrate the small wins and know that you are working toward something.”

“Naomi’s work is impacting the biggest epidemic of our lifetime. She represents the best of public health.” —Jose Rodriguez, deputy director, Office of Public Affairs and Communications, Ohio Department of Health

Adaniya grew up in Westerville, Ohio, a first-generation American with highly educated parents whose dinner-table conversations often revolved around national and world affairs. “I benefited enormously, which inspired me to give back,” she says.

While earning three graduate degrees at Ohio State — two in public health and one in geography — she chaired projects to help underprivileged children, worked on a task force to reduce infant mortality, received the university’s top graduate teaching award and found valued mentors with whom she stays in touch.

She also volunteered with the Office of Pastoral Care at Wexner Medical Center. That experience shaped her belief that all humans are connected, that everyone deserves to be helped.

Adaniya is saddened that the state she loves has been hit so hard by the opioid crisis, especially Ohio’s Appalachian region.

“I’ve been able to meet with leaders in those communities,” she says. “People are struggling. Whether you see it as an individual’s problem or a community’s, it’s in everyone’s interest for public policy to address these struggles head-on. The point of a health care system is to make people healthier and happier.

“What motivates me,” she adds, “is being able to represent many of those who aren’t at the table.”

Honoree 2 of 9

Quinn Capers IV ’91 MD

Presented to alumni who have made a significant and sustained contribution that fosters diversity and inclusion in their broader community and/or organization. Their efforts must recognize and respect the value of individual differences such as race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, sex, age, disability, veteran or military service status, gender identity, economic status, political belief, marital status or social background.

Quinn Capers talking to students

Caring for patients and futures

Ohio State's College of Medicine is a leader in diversity, largely thanks to the advocacy and initiative of Dr. Quinn Capers.

By Ross Bishoff

Quinn Capers IV ’91 MD is helping Ohio State’s College of Medicine emerge as a guiding light for diversity in health care.

But beyond his belief in providing career paths for people of all backgrounds, Capers — the recipient of the alumni association’s 2019 Diversity Champion Award — sees a pragmatic reason for this cause.

“Diversity saves lives in medicine; research shows this,” says Capers, professor of medicine and associate dean of admissions from 2009 until he was promoted to vice dean of faculty in June. “In the admissions process, just like we feel selecting students who are compassionate will lead to lives saved, we feel getting a class that is diverse will lead to lives saved.”

Capers points to studies showing patients from minority communities have higher survival and satisfaction ratings when seeing doctors with similar backgrounds. Research also demonstrates physicians who attend diverse colleges are more comfortable treating patients from different backgrounds.

The racial diversity within Ohio State’s College of Medicine has changed substantially since Capers walked its halls as a student from 1987 to 1991. During that time, he recalls, the school ranked near the bottom of more than 100 medical colleges for African Americans enrolled. Today, U.S. News & World Report ranks the Ohio State College of Medicine second nationally in the enrollment of African Americans among schools that are not historically black colleges and universities.

Capers is largely responsible for that upswing, says Dr. K. Craig Kent, dean of the College of Medicine. Kent and other colleagues see how tirelessly Capers works to recruit students from underrepresented backgrounds while making the college itself a more welcoming place.

“Dr. Capers has had more impact on diverse students and alumni than he could ever know. I am privileged to be an alumna at this exciting time for The Ohio State University College of Medicine.” —Anisa Shomo ’06, ’10 MD, assistant professor, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine

Among his efforts, Capers introduced implicit bias training for faculty and staff in the college. The training reveals unconscious racial and gender biases in individuals and helps them better connect with people of different backgrounds. In about 150 implicit bias workshops since early 2018, he has trained more than 1,000 physicians and health care workers.

As outcomes of the past decade demonstrate, Capers’ efforts on behalf of the College of Medicine have paid big dividends:

  • The number of applications from underrepresented minority students has tripled.
  • Overall applications have increased from 4,000 to 8,000.
  • For the first time in the college’s 104-year history, women have outnumbered men in the last six entering classes (2014–2019).
  • The average Medical College Admissions Test score of the entering class has remained at or above the 90th percentile.

“I’m really proud of the work we’ve done,” says Capers, whose work also earned him the honor of 2019 College of Medicine Professor of the Year. “If there’s one area we want to be sure we’re doing things fairly and where justice is important, it’s in health care, making life-and-death decisions.”

Honoree 3 of 9

Shelley Graf ’83

Presented to alumni who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and service to The Ohio State University.

Shelly Graf on the field at Ohio Stadium

Taking the lead

Shelley Graf transitioned from drum major to major supporter right after graduation. Too numerous to mention, her good deeds for the marching band are a source of admiration and motivation.

By Rich Warren

There’s an old adage that if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. Shelley Graf ’83 is just such a person.

This dedicated member of The Ohio State University Alumni Band has served on that organization’s board of directors in several capacities, including as president. She’s also been the main point of contact for donations to the Script Ohio Club for many years, and in 2018, she was a key player in the 100% TBDBITL campaign that raised $9 million to fund scholarships for band members in perpetuity. At the annual reunion of alumni board members, Graf is the unofficial leader of the drum major contingent, and she even coordinates a pizza party for current band members each year.

For these efforts and many more, Graf was selected to receive this year’s Ralph Davenport Mershon Award, presented to alumni who’ve worked to provide exceptional leadership and service to Ohio State. But Graf would argue that her many undertakings haven’t been work at all.

“When you love something as much as I love the Ohio State band, it’s a pleasure to give back,” she says. “It’s important to help make sure the band is the very best it can be.”

“Shelley Graf is one of the most dedicated, selfless and visible of our many TBDBITL alumni. I value her support and friendship more than she will ever know.” —Christopher Hoch, director of the Ohio State Marching and Athletic Bands

Graf’s track record of significant accomplishments began in 1981 when she was named the first female drum major in the Big Ten, prompting a lasting reputation for her showmanship and speed with the baton. Since 1986, she’s worked as a physical therapist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, where — as manager of acute care rehabilitation — she supervises the work of 80 staff members.

Graf believes her experience with patient care over the years has helped her find ways to motivate others. “I’ve had a lot of people tell me ‘Shelley, you’ve got a way to make people get up and get going,’” she says, laughing.

In her years with the band, Graf marks as a memorable highlight the time she escorted former band director Paul Droste out to dot the “i” in Script Ohio after he retired in 1983.

Graf still maintains a busy schedule of band performances — now with other alumni in Columbus and across Ohio — and never misses the alumni reunion game at Ohio Stadium each fall. She’s made numerous tours with the band across the country and around the world, including on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland and in the six-mile-long King Kamehameha Parade in Honolulu. In February, she’ll embark on her ninth Buckeye Cruise for Cancer, where she and other former band members entertain cancer patients and survivors as well as their families.

Asked what drives all this ardor, Graf has a simple answer: “I love performing, I love twirling and I love the Ohio State band!”

Honoree 4 of 9

Lori Herman ’00

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.

Lori Herman smiling

Finding perfect fits

A believer in Ohio State and Ford Motor Co., Lori Herman discovers and nurtures win-win situations for her alma mater and employer alike.

By Lynne M. Bonenberger

Lori Herman ’00 is one of some 430 Ohio State alumni working at Ford Motor Co. She can recite that number off the top of her head because that’s the way her mind works — and because she has made it her mission to welcome recruits who share her alma mater.

Establishing and nurturing ties between Ford and Ohio State is in her job description as well. That means cultivating relationships among alumni, most of whom are based at the company’s headquarters campus in Dearborn, Michigan. She joined Ford immediately after graduation and excelled in both manufacturing and design engineering positions, while also earning two master’s degrees from the University of Michigan.

Since 2014, Herman has managed the Ford-Ohio State Alliance, a role she describes as “professional matchmaker.”

“If a researcher at Ford has a need, a large part of my job is identifying if there’s a counterpart at Ohio State who can help,” she says. “And I promote what Ohio State is offering that Ford may be interested in. I invite faculty members to give seminars at Ford to spark interest in working with them.”

“Lori is one of the most dedicated ambassadors for Ohio State I have ever met.” —David Emerling, industry collaborations director, The Ohio State University Center for Automotive Research

To date, Herman has overseen a portfolio of 75 funded alliance projects involving 56 faculty members or full-time researchers at the university.

“The main reason we collaborate with Ohio State is for the research,” she says. “A nice side benefit is that often we end up hiring students who worked on our projects. It’s a huge win-win.”

As a high school student in tiny Napoleon, Ohio, Herman didn’t have much of a handle on what engineers do. She was good at math, and so she enrolled in engineering at Ohio State but was undecided about a specialty.

One day in an introductory engineering class, she saw a demonstration on process optimization, that is, ways to improve efficiency. “I was fascinated,” Herman says. “I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh! This is how my brain naturally works. This is my major.’”

Today, Herman keeps an eye out for potential interns and recruits who share that mindset and enthusiasm.

“If you were a success at Ohio State, you have the opportunity to be a success at Ford,” she says. “You have to be self-motivated at Ohio State, and Ford is very much the same way. I tell our interns and new hires that if you want to learn things, people here are more than receptive.”

And once they’re on board, Herman makes it a point to welcome them into Ford’s network of Buckeyes through happy hours, game-watch parties and activities sponsored by the local alumni club. It’s a good way to balance work and life, she says.

“I really like my job, but the automotive industry is very demanding,” she adds. “I tell students, ‘If you want an exciting career, automotive is it.’”

Honoree 5 of 9

Rattan Lal ’68 PhD

This is the single highest honor bestowed by The Ohio State University Alumni Association, Inc. It is presented to alumni who have gained national or international distinction as outstanding representatives of their chosen fields or professions, bringing extraordinary credit to the university and significant benefit to humankind.

Rattan Lal talking to students

Growing a bright future

Known the world over for his groundbreaking work on global issues, Rattan Lal treasures his ties with Ohio State students and colleagues.

By Lynne M. Bonenberger

By Todd Jones

Rattan Lal’s humility belies his world-renowned career achievements, but his passion for scientific research about agriculture is always in clear view.

The Ohio State Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science studies how sustainable soil management can address the global issues of food security, water quality and climate change. At age 75, he continues to work seven days a week.

“We must enhance awareness about the importance of soil to humanity and to the environment,” says Lal, who was recognized for his contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. “We must make sure we manage soil properly, that we do not take it for granted.”

Lal ’68 PhD spreads that message constantly, sometimes through keynote addresses that attract audiences from around the world and sometimes one Ohio State student at a time. In his 33rd year as a faculty member in the university’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, he continues to teach undergraduate and graduate students, conduct research with and mentor doctoral candidates and postdoctoral fellows, and write books and journal articles.

“There is no more revered, more impactful soil scientist in the world today.” —Ohio State President Michael V. Drake

“The thing I think is most admirable about Dr. Lal is that he has used the opportunities that he’s had here at Ohio State to advance science in a way that changes the world around him,” says Ohio State President Michael V. Drake.

In April, Lal earned the Japan Prize, one of the most prestigious honors in science and technology. Never in its 34-year history had it gone to a soil scientist. A year earlier, Lal received the Glinka World Soil Prize from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the GCHERA World Agriculture Prize from an international confederation of higher education associations.

“The Japan Prize and other awards are a recognition of the work of all my colleagues, the students, the visiting scholars, the post doctorates and research scientists,” Lal says. “I clearly did not get those awards on my own. It is my association with Ohio State that makes me a very unique person.”

Lal showed his appreciation for Ohio State by donating all $540,000 in prize money from the three awards to an endowment supporting the university’s Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, which he founded and directs.

“Ohio State has been a great institute that has provided me the environment in which I have been able to thrive and contribute knowledge to address global issues,” says Lal, who was born in West Punjab, India (now part of Pakistan).

Lal always wears an Ohio State tie with pride whenever he travels, and he does so now as the humble recipient of this year’s Alumni Medalist Award — the highest honor bestowed by The Ohio State University Alumni Association.

“It’s a great privilege and matter of pride and honor,” says Lal, whose wife and four children also are Ohio State graduates. “Being recognized by your home institution, your own colleagues and peers, that is very unique and special.”

Honoree 6 of 9

Naval ROTC

The award recognizes people and programs that best exemplify the spirit of Ohio State.

NROTC midshipman picking up trash in Ohio Stadium

Clearing the way

Naval ROTC midshipmen earn kudos for 30 years of post-game Ohio Stadium sweeps that help us stand out from the field in sustainability.

By Dennis Fiely

More than a hundred midshipmen begin arriving an hour before dawn the day after the Buckeyes’ home football games. Their mission: the arduous task of cleaning Ohio Stadium.

With military-like precision, members of the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) divide themselves into composters, recyclers and leaf blower operators. Armed with garbage bags and rubber gloves, they go to work, row by row.

“We pair in groups of two, start at the top of C Deck and work our way down, left to right, kind of like a military march,” says Gunnery Sergeant Nick Robinson, who serves as the unit’s faculty advisor. In all, they collect about 15 tons of trash per game.

The Ohio State University Alumni Association recognized the midshipmen’s dedication with the 2019 E. Gordon Gee Spirit of Ohio State Award, which goes to people and programs that best exemplify the spirit of Ohio State.

“We take a lot of pride in the clean-up, so it is quite an honor to receive the spirit award. We see ourselves as role models for the rest of campus.” —Eva Pahl, a fourth-year midshipman

On one recent morning, the volunteers bagged the usual assortment of cups, cans, stale popcorn, nacho remnants, boxes and napkins. The leaf blowers followed behind the composters and recyclers, gathering “anything bigger than a dime,” Pahl notes.

Among the most unusual finds in the NROTC’s 30 years on the job were an engagement ring and wedding band. More common: binoculars, wallets, purses, sunglasses, cash and Buck IDs.

Within about four hours of their 5:30 a.m. start, the stadium has been cleared of all debris, ready for the next 100,000-plus crowd.

NROTC’s $8,000 reward for each cleanup funds its activities for the year, but that is not the midshipmen’s main motivator.

“Nobody wants to get up that early,” Pahl says. “But we feel a responsibility to the university, the environment and each other. Our entire company is there, even the officers. I think it is important that we reduce our trash, but we do it mainly for the camaraderie. It brings us closer together.”

Their efforts fall under the university’s Zero Waste initiative, which diverts more than 90 percent of game-day trash from landfills to be recycled, repurposed or composted. The work has helped keep Ohio State’s diversion rate No. 1 in the Big Ten for six years running.

“We’ve become a well-oiled machine,” says fifth-year midshipman Brian Candow. “We tweak it a little bit each year, but it’s pretty much its same system since I came here: We divide the stadium in half and meet at the end.”

Honoree 7 of 9

Herbert Robinson ’77

Presented to alumni who have distinguished themselves in service to humanity and who have best exemplified the university’s motto, “Education for Citizenship,” by having performed significant voluntary service to their community beyond the call of business or professional duty.

Herbert Robinson speaking

Making time

Herb Robinson gives selflessly to better his community, often spending the equivalent of a full work week on the causes he supports.

By Kaylee Harter

After Herb Robinson’s freshman year of college, he was working as the YMCA aquatics manager when some of the youth asked for his help in forming a swim team. His parents insisted he wouldn’t have time with work, school and other responsibilities on his plate.

But Robinson responded, “I will make time.”

It wasn’t until retirement, though, that he was able to make volunteerism his full-time mission. Since retiring from Procter & Gamble in 2012, the Cincinnati resident has put his heart and soul into his community, often spending 40 hours each week volunteering.

“Citizens really make the community what it is, so I try to do my part to make Cincinnati a great place to live,” he says.

Robinson, a competitive runner with 30 marathons to his credit, serves as the race director for the Feet in the Street 5k, a race with the goal of revitalizing the Avondale community. Last year, he worked to incorporate health screens into the race in an effort to improve preventive care for African American men, whose life expectancy is significantly shorter than their majority counterparts.

Robinson also shares his love of running and his time with youth of the community. Avondale Running Club president Henry Brown called Robinson a surrogate parent of sorts to the youth Robinson has mentored through the Avondale Running Club’s partnership with the local youth council. In one case, it meant teaching a high school student to drive to prepare for the licensure exam. Sometimes it just means being there to advise and support.

“He’s a high-energy, high-integrity guy who gives freely of himself. Herb puts himself both out there and in there. He causes others to be supportive and want to help, which is a unique kind of skill." –Henry Brown, Avondale Running Club president and longtime friend

Robinson makes a difference in lives at the other end of the age continuum, too, providing free tax preparation services for the elderly through AARP.

The list of Robinson’s volunteer efforts stretches on and on. He’s president of the board of PAR Projects, a nonprofit that brings communities together through art and education, and he volunteers at the Western and Southern Open, a large Cincinnati tennis tournament that supports charitable causes.

He even applies his scuba skills to volunteering: He and his wife, Barbara, clean the manatee enclosures at the Cincinnati Zoo each month.

At Ohio State, Robinson worked with others in the College of Engineering to establish the Minority Engineering Program Advisory Board, which created three scholarship endowments to help current and future students accomplish their goals.

“There were people to support me and give me the opportunities that I had,” he says of why he volunteers so much. “I just felt like I had to try to give others as much of an opportunity as I could for them to achieve their potential.”

Honoree 8 of 9

Paul Stromberg ’67, ’73 PhD, ’78 DVM

Awarded to alumni who have superb records of distinguished career accomplishments and who have made outstanding contributions to their professions.

Paul Stromberg smiling over a microscope

Discovering pathways

Paul Stromberg pursued a high school interest and three degrees to a career that has made a lasting imprint on the field of pathology.

By Lynne M. Bonenberger

The peculiar but persistent rumor that an elephant is buried on West Campus is true, says Paul Stromberg ’67, ’73 PhD, ’78 DVM. He knows because he was there.

Stromberg was there because he autopsied the elephant, a circus animal that had fallen fatally ill and was transferred from Cleveland to Ohio State’s Veterinary Medical Center before being euthanized.

“We dug a huge hole on the dairy farm and performed the autopsy there, then placed the remains in the hole,” says Stromberg, a senior pathology resident at that point in the early 1980s.

It was one memorable situation among many in a career that has taken Stromberg from an early interest in parasites to significant contributions to the fields of human and animal pathology through his study of veterinary medicine. His work is known internationally as a result of his authorship of more than a hundred articles in scientific journals and the award-winning lectures and classes he has presented in dozens of countries. He is a past president of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists and a member of many prestigious professional organizations.

“Then, after vet school, I did a residency in pathology, and I began to see that I could add something to our understanding of ways to prevent or cure diseases.”

Stromberg specializes in anatomic pathology. The process involves evaluating an image — such as a microscope slide from a biopsy — by breaking it into its components, studying how the parts relate to each other and reassembling them to determine a diagnosis. “We look for patterns,” he explains, “and relate them to pathologic processes.”

“Paul has made an outstanding and lasting impact on veterinary pathology.” —Morton Schmidt ’78 DVM, classmate and retired veterinarian, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

His research has resulted in patents on monoclonal antibodies, which bind to specific cells and therefore allow targeted therapy. “They’re being used therapeutically in human cancer medicine, but their use will expand in veterinary medicine,” says Stromberg, clearly proud that Ohio State’s veterinary pathology program is considered one of the best in the world.

Although he retired in 2013 after nearly three decades as a professor of veterinary pathology, Stromberg still has an office at Ohio State and can be found there several days a week. “I’m not ready to stop learning and teaching others,” he says. “I still like the challenge of diagnosis, and I still have something to contribute to veterinary medicine.”

Stromberg also continues to enjoy his hobby of wildlife photography. It grew out of his need for medical images to use in his classes and has been a side benefit of his travels, which have allowed him to photograph animals on several continents.

Honoree 9 of 9

Amy Wittmann ’80

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.

Amy Wittmann talking to students

Supporting student causes

Amy Alcorn Wittmann followed a friend's advice to a range of fulfilling roles that allow her to work with Ohio State students.

By Shanna Finley

Whether fostering leadership opportunities or flipping pancakes, Amy Alcorn Wittmann ’80 devotes much of her time to supporting hard-working Ohio State students.

Although she grins when asked about a sandwich named in her honor at Sloopy’s Diner, Wittmann is most proud and humbled to be the 2019 Josephine Sitterle Failer Award recipient.

“I couldn’t hold back the tears when they told me,” Wittmann says, recalling a gathering she thought was called solely to discuss one of the many projects she’s dedicated to in the Office of Student Life. “I was completely surprised, thinking it was just going to be a normal weekly meeting.”

Wittmann’s Kappa Kappa Gamma sister Libby Germain, a lifelong friend she made as a student, urged her five years ago to return to campus as a volunteer. “It’s a blessing to give back,” she says. “Going to games is great, but what makes this place is our students. We can’t forget how remarkable they are.”

Students definitely feel Wittmann’s support.

“Amy’s mentorship has made me a stronger leader, and because of her, BuckeyeThon students have team-building opportunities and culture-shaping strategies,” says Nina Ryan, a fourth-year student and current president of BuckeyeThon. The largest student-run philanthropy at Ohio State, the organization raises awareness and funds for children with cancer. “She understands the importance of students seeing their own impact,” Ryan adds.

“Although a quiet leader modest about her contributions, Amy’s impact on Student Life is loud and profound. She has nurtured an environment that allows Ohio State students of past, present and future to live out their fullest potential." –Colin Quinn ’18, a former BuckeyeThon president

Wittmann attended the program’s opening ceremony just once before signing on to assist.

“I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been affected by cancer, and I was so overwhelmed by the power and commitment of these students,” she recalls. “When you get to know them, learning all the things they want to do to change the world — and see them acting on these great ideas — you just want to be a part of it.”

Her husband, Jeff Wittmann ’76, jumped right in, too, as did their adult children.

“We have turned BuckeyeThon into a family affair,” Wittmann says, estimating her clan has churned out 15,000 flapjacks for the group’s annual dance marathon. “We get started on the pancakes at 2 a.m. It’s become a passion for all of us.”

Wittmann also helps organize BuckeyeThon’s annual fashion show, which gives children a chance to forget about being sick while having fun with their families and thousands of compassionate Ohio State students. Hosting dinners for BuckeyeThon’s executive committee and another student organization, Buckeye Leadership Fellows, is another way the Wittmanns help today’s students.

Every day, Amy Wittmann models the advice she gives to new students: Get involved. “There are so many ways to be engaged at Ohio State,” she says, “and they all make you a better person.”