Well hello, Molly!
Chances are you know her. Or know of her. Now, sit in as our new alumni chief discusses her role, ties between students past and present, and her own Buckeye journey.
Molly Ranz Calhoun ’86 has two Buckeye families. There’s the one she grew up in, with 14 Ohio State degrees — and two more in progress — within its circle. And there’s the one that’s hundreds of thousands strong, to which she owes her education and has dedicated her life’s work. She’s given her heart to both.
Now, Calhoun is president and CEO of The Ohio State University Alumni Association, which serves as the primary point of connection between the university and its graduates. She succeeded Jim Smith in the role May 1. Calhoun has worked for Ohio State for 35 years, always in the Office of Student Life, most recently as senior associate vice president.
- Why is leading the alumni association the right job for you now?
Actually, this role wasn’t something I really saw coming. I served last year as interim senior vice president for student life after having been pretty much behind the scenes planning and developing programs and projects throughout my career. The experience leading the department helped me realize how much energy I pull from interacting with others. It was kind of the “aha moment” for me. I had the opportunity to take part in something Student Life calls Buckeye Bus. We take a bus of students around Ohio to illustrate what it means to be a Buckeye, whether that’s as a part of Ohio State or as a citizen of Ohio. President Drake and members of the faculty went, too. When I got home that night, I said to my husband, “You know what? I could do that every single day.” Seeing those connections between students, alumni, faculty and the community, feeling the energy we create and the good we can do when we all get together, it was really exciting and even more inspiring.
- What do you bring to the university and alumni association in this role?
At this point in my career, I’m uniquely positioned to know our students and Ohio State as an organization. We have a great opportunity to think about what it means to be an alum and talk with students about how special that is from the day they move in. I’ve worked with students for 35 years. So being able to use the opportunities we have on our campuses to familiarize them with the alumni association —that idea warms my heart. The staff and various leaders over the years have laid a great foundation for this. We can build on that. When I think about all the students I helped move in as freshmen, and now getting to work with them as alumni, just like Buckeye spirit, the possibilities are boundless.
- How do you think about the relationship between students and alumni?
College is very important for us as we figure out who we are and what we want to do. And with that comes all the interactions you get, everything you can pull from every resource. One of those resources is our alumni. We create this safety net for students when they come to college. It’s an opportunity to try things out and to look at different options. As students graduate and become alumni, then that safety net becomes more like a fabric, and the weave becomes tighter. That rich tapestry is what keeps us together. Because we’ve “been there,” literally and figuratively, alumni get to put that blanket around students —help them, mentor them, give them experiences, share what they did when they were at Ohio State. That’s neat to watch that whole circle of life.
- If you had to pick just one, what’s your favorite thing to do on campus?
Hands down, it’s move-in. It’s really the happiest day of the year for me. That, and graduation day. Those really bookend everything, right? At move-in, there’s this magic to the day; it’s this huge logistical puzzle of figuring out how to get 10,000 students into their residence halls with all their belongings. But it’s also this deeply personal moment for students and their families and supporters. Their parents and friends, their family dog, their grandparents, their best friends are all coming with them to Ohio State. And the stories! I remember one parent who was just sobbing as she was leaving. I was comforting her, and we were talking, both acknowledging it would all be OK. Then she said, “The sad thing is, I only live three miles away.” We had a great laugh. It’s entertaining watching the amount of stuff students can pack into a room —and also the amount of stuff that comes right back out to go home with their loved ones. And there are hundreds of volunteers, including some of our alumni. So that is just an exciting day, one with such special energy and collaboration.
- You’ve been a Buckeye your whole life. Is there one day that stands out above all others?
That would have to be the day I found an advertisement for an internship in the Office of Student Life. It was for a job to work on the renovation of what was then the Stadium Scholarship Dorm, and it caught my eye because my dad had lived in the stadium. He told so many stories about that experience. When I graduated, Student Life offered me a position, and I thought, “OK, I’ll stay for three years,” because I was going to go off and join an architectural firm and design and create unforgettable spaces. Well, I still have been able to do many of those things —and 35 years later, I’m still here! I have been able to create spaces where students get to live out their dreams, their experiences, their passions. That’s been such an incredible adventure. I figured out I’ve had 12 different positions in the Office of Student Life. This is my lucky 13th position at Ohio State.
Molly is the daughter of Norbert Ranz ’49, ’52 DDS and the late Mary Welch Ranz’48, who met at Ohio State. They made a life in Norbert’s hometown of Cincinnati, where Molly, her sister and two brothers grew up. In their predominantly Catholic westside neighborhood, there were Notre Dame families and the Ranz family of Buckeyes.
Ohio State ties are prized by this family. Her degree is in industrial design. She and her husband, Tom Calhoun, have three sons, Cody, who is studying medicine at Ohio State, and twins Casey, a business major, and Conner, who is working full time. All three sons were born at Wexner Medical Center and attended university child care. Other alumni include two of her siblings, nieces, nephews and her uncle George Ranz ’48. (He and Molly’s dad captained the baseball team in 1947 and ’48, respectively, and still are one of just a few sets of brothers to captain an Ohio State sport.)
While charting her path from student intern to senior associate vice president, Molly led the university’s largest residential construction project, the North Residential District, and played a key role in the design and construction of the current Ohio Union.
A history of photography class prompted her to minor in photography. That’s led to her role as photographer for her sons’ many sports teams.
“Buckeyes have this bond. I tell people it’s kind of like Gorilla Glue. We should have Buckeye Glue. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, we will stick together and be there for each other.”