Q&A with alumni board member Vaughn Broadnax
For Broadnax, gridiron glory doesn't come close to matching the achievement of earning his diploma.
Vaughan Broadnax ’84 made plenty of memorable plays as an Ohio State running back, particularly against That Team Up North. But ask the senior sales executive for the U.S. Postal Service about his most unforgettable moment as a Buckeye, and football doesn’t come up. A promise to his mother does. Now, as a member of the alumni association’s board of directors, he works every day to connect fellow Buckeyes with their alma mater and help them create new memories as alumni.
- What is your most memorable day as an alumnus?
It was about a half-hour after graduation: walking up to my mother, handing her my diploma and fulfilling that promise. In junior high and high school, my goal was to attend the Naval Academy, and after I received a scholarship and an offer to play football there, I was going by hook or by crook — until I visited Annapolis. I soon realized I might not have the fortitude to be a midshipman. Instead, I chose Ohio State, which had the right combination of everything I was looking for.
- How about your most memorable day as a student?
I was informed, because I did not do the work required fall quarter of my freshman year, that I could not wrestle because of my grades. That quarter, both my mother and father were hospitalized, and I was constantly going back and forth to my hometown of Xenia. My mother eventually got better; my father got worse and died spring quarter of my freshman year. It was that awakening — that I have to take care of school. I also promised my mother I would graduate in four years, so I had to get back on the horse. That was the most memorable moment, because I had to make a choice to stay in school and fulfill that promise to my mother.
[Until asked, Broadnax does not mention football. Only then does he bring up the legendary block that enabled Art Schlichter to score the winning touchdown at Michigan in 1981. “That is something I enjoyed because — and I share this a lot with kids — it was not the glory of having the ball in your hand, it was the glory of enabling another person to score.” The next year, at home in the Horseshoe, Broadnax took a handoff on fourth-and-1 to ensure a first down and instead scored a touchdown.]
- Who was your Ohio State mentor?
The late William Nelson. He was a professor who advised me academically and taught me a lot about navigating through school and outside life, about getting and staying involved in the community. As an undergrad, I was not part of the formation of the Black Alumni Society, but Dr. Nelson talked about why it was formed: to encourage increased enrollment and matriculation of black students. That got me involved in Ohio State beyond being a student. After graduation, I immediately got involved.
- Why do you sit on the alumni association board?
After serving as president of the Black Alumni Society, I noticed a lack of participation among our black alumni. I tried to understand why. So when the opportunity came to join the alumni association board, I learned the majority of our graduates could be more engaged. I wanted to try to identify why. I plan to work over the next three years left in my term to engage them.
- How did your Ohio State experience prepare you for professional success?
I had the great opportunity to meet people from all backgrounds as a student and teammate. I got involved in the community as a Big Brother, and that was incredibly enlightening. That exposure to different kinds of people allowed me to be successful in business. There is not a person I have ever felt uncomfortable speaking to.
- Your LinkedIn profile mentions “clients first and people always.” What does that mean and how does it apply to your professional and personal life?
The phrase “customer intimacy” was popularized a few years ago. If I know the customer inside out and they know me as best they can, that is a great relationship professionally and personally. That customer is more willing to share any concerns they have with an immediate problem before it festers and becomes a big problem. If I do the right things with integrity, on the company side and for my customers, I can’t lose.
- What one piece of advice do you have for new grads?
When you’re seeking a job, seek a job you think you can enjoy for a long time. If you seek a job just for money, the money will not keep you in that job. You will hop from job to job just for money. If you do something you enjoy, the money will come.
About the author
Dan Caterinicchia is assistant vice president for strategy and administration in the Office of Advancement.