Board leader Kristin Watt was moved by Woody Hayes’ 1986 ‘pay forward’ address, and Ohio State is the beneficiary.
Woody Hayes spoke at the winter term commencement on March 21, 1986, the day Kristin Watt earned the first of her two Ohio State degrees. “I heard the whole ‘pay forward’ speech,” says Watt ’86, ’89 JD. “Once you hear that speech, how do you not live by that?”
Recently elected chair of The Ohio State University Alumni Association’s Board of Directors, Watt is a longtime Buckeye volunteer leader. She’s also a former women’s basketball captain who has provided color commentary for that team’s radio broadcasts for more than three decades.
Watt recently sat down to talk about the alumni association’s new strategic plan — she keeps copies of it at home and in the office for inspiration — the power of alumni networking and her first call from Archie Griffin.
Why are the alumni association offerings important, and what role do they play for the university and the alumni involved?
What the alumni association offers is really significant, and its audience ranges from members of the Student Alumni Council to our folks in their golden years. I think of what we do for students, the connections we can make for them. As an alumna, I can be a mentor, I can go in and talk to classes. Alumni helping students and their fellow alumni — that’s what we want to do.
What are your expectations for the new strategic plan?
I’m excited about the strategic plan. I’m proud of the effort that went into it and proud of the product we developed. The plan sets us up for our future. It’s uniquely us. It is something for us to aspire to, our North Star, and there were hundreds of people involved. It feels like home.
What would you recommend to alumni who are interested in reconnecting?
I would invite people to visit the association website to see the opportunities out there. I would invite people to look up clubs near them and societies that speak to their interests. I would invite them to reach out to their colleges to see what opportunities they offer. Those are great places to start.
What value does an engaged Buckeye alumni base bring to today's university and students?
It provides opportunities for real-life connections. Alumni help us recruit the best students. They help provide the best experiences. It’s not just the ability for someone to write a check. You can share your talents, which allows our students to get the best education. When alumni engage at that level, it makes the school better, and it makes all of our degrees more valuable. I look at my education as a business school undergrad and then a law school student. The stature of those degrees has grown significantly since I graduated. That’s because of what alumni do to help our university.
Why do you give so much back to Ohio State, and what does it mean to you to chair the association board?
I’m going to try not to get emotional; this is very hard for me. The university is bigger than any of us because it is all of us, and that’s what the alumni association does. It makes us bigger, stronger, better, more diverse.
I am where I am today because of Ohio State. When I realized that someone I didn’t know gave money for me to go to school, that was unbelievable. Ohio State was my launching pad. Once you start getting involved with the university, it’s this feel-good thing, and you can’t stop.
When Archie called me to be on the board, after I was on the Athletic Council and Alumni Advisory Council, he said I had been selected and asked if I would serve. It’s pretty cool to have Archie call you. What I said was, “Archie, my answer is not yes. My answer is hell yes!” He laughed and said, “Great.”
About the author
Dan Caterinicchia is chief communications officer for The Ohio State University Alumni Association and Office of Advancement.