The Ohio State University Alumni Association

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Letters to the editor

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We welcome your letters, which we ask be limited to 250 words or less. Please send them to Letters selected for publication typically address topics raised in Ohio State Alumni Magazine, although the editor reserves the right to make exceptions. All published letters appear online, and a selection appears in our print edition. We edit letters for space, clarity, accuracy and civility. When readers’ published views prompt others to write, the latter submissions are the last published on a particular topic. All letters represent the opinions of the letter writers, not those of the magazine team, alumni association or university.

An unforgettable year

Were you targeting me with the fall 2018 issue?

I spent all of 1968 attending, graduating from and living a few doors from the university. I recall two posters in my room on 12th Avenue: the famous psychedelic silhouette of Bob Dylan and a poster I had made (with assistance from the Chinese language department) of a white snake on a bamboo mat, stating (in Chinese characters) “Beware the Viper of Paranoia.”

I started the year in ROTC, where I recall one African American student in my class for the entire four years. I remember The Four O’Clock Balloon, and in the spring, attended one of the best concerts ever, featuring Cream, downtown. The previous fall, I met fellow student Susan Serksnis, who lived in Lincoln Tower, and we are celebrating our 50th anniversary this year.

I can tell you the weather, my activities and the mood of those around me on the days that Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were shot, the night of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and the day our football team destroyed That Team Up North.

In addition to the events you noted, I recall a massive snowfall in early May. I also got to meet the university police chief, Okey Starr, who treated me more like a coach or father in handling the trouble I had gotten myself into, as well as Vice President for Educational Services John Bonner. I usually ate my Friday evening meal at Larry’s Bar on High Street near Lane Avenue and studied in the old Ohio Union music room.

I was offered $100 each for my student tickets to The Game, which I declined. I celebrated Thanksgiving the next Thursday with my family, married my wife on Saturday, accepted a position in Toledo (to start in January), took final exams and graduated with the December class. An honoree at graduation was a senator from a Southern state of dubious distinction, and I considered boycotting the event. However, I learned a lot at Ohio State, one of the most significant things being that you cannot learn about or from others if you do not know what they have to say or think.

I thank you for the magazine, but more significantly I thank the university for contributing significantly to who I am, and became, in that watershed year. We both seem to be much better for it.

John R. Hutson ’68
Memphis, Tennessee

Sarene memories

1968 was a life-changing year for me, as it was for many at Ohio State. Struggling financially to remain in school and struggling academically with a major for which I was not suited, I was recruited by a friend to join a band to play at a campus area bar, the Sarene Lounge. Paying me more than enough to afford tuition, rent and food, The Sarene might have been a dingy, smelly, smoky place, but it was a godsend to me.

I played in the popular band The Apocalypse there for almost four years, almost enough time to get my accounting degree at Ohio State. I was in the same class as the football Super Sophs and remember well listening to Marv Homan pontificating over the Buckeyes each Saturday on AM radio station 610 WTVN (since teams were only on TV once or twice a year at the time), then experiencing students’ exhilaration when they occupied the Sarene in huge numbers each such Saturday evening.

I was in the Sarene when the goalposts from the Michigan game came marching by down High Street, then we employees were interred in the bar when the celebration turned to something uglier. Campus protests? Sympathized, but who had time?

L. Michael Howard ’72, ’83 MA
Westerville, Ohio

Gains for women, too

Your feature on 1968 is a timely reminder that change often comes from those with the courage to question the status quo. In 1968, three major issues swirled to cause campus protests: the Vietnam War, serious civil rights and minority concerns, and important women’s issues. Your article focused primarily on the first two.

Women at Ohio State sought equal opportunity admission to undergraduate, professional and graduate programs, more faculty women role models, high-quality child care and access to birth control through the student health center. Faculty women sought equal pay and opportunity for advancement.

In 1970, the trustees wisely began to address these problems, creating a Campus Commission on the Status of Women to examine concerns and recommend improvements. Their report, issued in 1971, created a blueprint and leadership for change. The Office of the Associate Director of Affirmative Action took up these matters, and with firm support from the president, provost and vice president for administration, opened far greater opportunity for women at Ohio State.

The university named its first woman vice president, more women entered the professional colleges, women faculty were seriously recruited and, over the years, promoted, and female students took their place in the marching band.

There was — and is — more to be done, of course, but some fundamental matters were addressed.

There are great lessons from 1968 about the courage to question, the importance of open discourse and problem solving as a workable means to an end and the adaptability required to meet the world where it is moving. These are, in fact, what a great university does best. Ohio State was buffeted in 1968, but by 1971, it had found its footing, resilience and resolve to do far better for women.

Elaine H. Hairston ’66, ’67 MS, ’70 PhD
Naples, Florida
Chancellor emerita
Ohio Board of Regents

An evaluation is in order

Spring 1968 was the first season of big-time social unrest at Ohio State; by the end of autumn quarter 1970, that era was pretty much over — a three-year interval packed with social unrest that was mercifully brief, at least in the minds of many Buckeyes who were scraping by while earning their educations.

In a larger context, since that era the federal government (under the auspices of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society and its successors) had spent, according to the Heritage Foundation, roughly $22 trillion as of 2014 to rectify the social problems underlying that unrest. After 50-plus years, it’s way past time for our nation to dispassionately evaluate how successful such efforts have been. The answers may be both discomforting and unwelcome.

Michael P. Rethman ’74 DDS (LM)
Prescott, Arizona

Assassinations bookend his university years

A good presentation on the year 1968.

It was significant for me as I earned a bachelor’s degree in history two days after Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, got my ROTC commission and entered the Army on November 11, 1968.

My first year of college, 1963, John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and my last year, assassins killed Martin Luther King Jr. and RFK.

Still, my five years in Columbus were some of my best. Great memories for sure, and, of course, I am extremely proud to be an alum of The Ohio State University.

J. Alan Day ’68
Fairfax, Vermont

Remembering Richard Mall

Alumni association secretary Richard Mall ’49, ’53 PhD did not just “talk the talk” about honorable dissent in the 1968 editorial from which you quoted in the fall issue. My father also “walked the walk.”

During World War II, one assignment put him in command of a unit of black troops that earned a Presidential Unit Citation. He described their service as honorable in spite of the discrimination they faced, and the experience informed his later thinking about race relations.Wounded twice during the war, he earned a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his service with the 9th Armored Division.

He encouraged his students to be “thinkers” who could be honorable dissenters and challengers of established beliefs. In other words, he was a typical college professor.

He was admired and respected by students, the general public and leaders of business, government and academia of all races, creeds and national origins for his teaching, television work and public service contributions.

He was an honorable advocate for Ohio State alumni, as were those who preceded him and those who have followed him. My father lived and died (too early) as an energetic advocate for Ohio State.

Russell Mall ’70 (LM)

Team helped end support of discriminatory landlords 

The 1968 retrospective in the fall alumni magazine quotes me accurately as saying, “The most important accomplishment of my administration [as undergraduate student body president in 1968] was getting the trustees to approve a rule removing the properties of discriminatory landlords from the university’s list of approved housing.”

I’m writing now to eschew any implication that convincing the Board of Trustees to act was somehow accomplished single-handedly by the undergraduate student government.

It’s fair to say that my administration played an important role in the drama, but actions of other student groups, faculty members and especially the Law Student-Faculty Ad Hoc Committee on Open Housing were critical.

Particularly memorable also is that, in an environment in which approval of the open housing rule by the board was much in doubt, then-President Novice Fawcett and Vice Presidents John Corbally and John Mount all took the politically courageous step of voicing their support for the rule. That undoubtedly had more impact on the board than anything students had to say.

Jay Shaffer ’69
President, Undergraduate Student Body 1968–69

Class, president’s open door offer welcome lessons

I want to thank President Michael Drake for welcoming back to campus this past spring the black students who stood up for their rights 50 years ago in a quest for equality. They were brave souls.

One of the results of that 1968 confrontation was that Ohio State began to offer black studies courses. I enrolled in one of the first, Black Rhetoric in History, I believe. Not only was I exposed to accomplished black orators from Marcus Garvey to Malcolm X, but I had lively discussions with African American students in my class.

As a white kid from Cleveland, that experience opened my eyes to the injustices of our time and a lot more. It changed me forever and served me well during my nearly 40 years as a documentary filmmaker.

It is a pleasure to have Dr. Drake represent our university.

Patrick Holian ’70
Kralendijik, Bonaire

Keep it up!

I just had to write. I really enjoyed the fall 2018 edition of the alumni magazine. I loved the stories, pictures, timely writing, etc. I am suffering from macular degeneration, making reading and writing rather difficult. However, I did enjoy what I could read. Keep it up!!

Joan Balmoria Mathews ’58
Accomac, Virginia

A visit to that mythical stadium

The connection Roderick Bang ’49 had with his alma mater and marching band inspired his daughter, letter writer Louise Rowntree, to visit campus for a skull session and football game this fall.
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The connection Roderick Bang ’49 had with his alma mater and marching band inspired his daughter, letter writer Louise Rowntree, to visit campus for a skull session and football game this fall. 

I grew up in California a Buckeye fan.

My dad, Roderick Bang, attended North High in Columbus and was a drummer in their band. This opened up a whole new world for a shy kid, who grew to love the halftime shows and the attention band membership provided.

He graduated at 16 and entered Ohio State in 1944. In his memoir, he wrote:

“I aspired to become a member of the Ohio State marching band. [It was] all brass and marched to a much faster cadence than most marching bands. The uniforms were fantastic. On game days I’d dress at home and ride the bus to campus; I really got a kick out of the reaction I’d get from other passengers.

“As we entered the field, the band marched and lined up in formation; once in position, the drummers played through our unique drum-beat, then the rest of the band joined in, marching down field playing ... ‘Across the Field.’ At that exact moment, 70,000 spectators would scream and cheer so loudly! I have NEVER experienced anything during my life that matched that feeling.”

This love of his band days made him a Buckeye for life. For me, being a second-generation Buckeye fan was special, too.
I began watching games with Dad in the ’70s. Through the years and a move to Oregon, my dad, husband and I talked most Saturdays during football season, watching the big games together.

Dad turned 90 last year and as it turns out, the 2017–2018 season would be his last. He needed an unexpected surgery in May, was unable to recover, and passed away in June.

During many days in the hospital, we discussed how my husband and I were finally going to Ohio Stadium to see the Buckeyes play our Oregon State Beavers. We wanted to see this mythical stadium and put a visual to the stories Dad told us. I couldn’t report back about his beloved alma mater as I’d envisioned, but what a fine way to honor his memory.

We enjoyed what meant so much to my dad: vibrant energy, great football and rich traditions. I know he was with us.

Louise Rowntree
Portland, Oregon

Lost, but not forever

John Beck ’64 was reunited with his class ring after a 40-year separation.
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John Beck ’64 was reunited with his class ring after a 40-year separation.

After almost 40 years, I never thought I would see my class ring again. A symbol of satisfactorily completing extensive courses of study and achieving my degree, a class ring also is a statement of pride in my university. It says, “I will always be a Buckeye!”

I entered Ohio State in January 1960 as a returning veteran without the benefit of the GI Bill. I carried a full credit load, majoring in physics while working 40 hours a week at the Ohio Department of Highways as a civil engineering technician. The engineers allowed me to work Saturdays and Sundays to make up the time I needed to devote to my studies. One of my fond memories of college life is studying late at night for an 8 a.m. physics exam the next day while washing my daughter’s diapers at a local laundromat.

Upon graduation, I ordered my class ring, which I proudly wore until 1979, when I left it on a sink at a roadside rest in Louisiana. The ring was lost forever, or so I thought. When I returned to New York, I ordered a replacement ring.

Earlier this year, I received an email from the alumni association that a woman from Missouri had called about a ring with the initials JJB. It was with her late father’s belongings; he had hoped to return the ring to its rightful owner. I am grateful to her for returning my ring over the summer, and I now have two class rings to show my Buckeye pride.

John Beck ’64