Kevin Fitzsimons, October 2016
Spirit of the Age
Look closely and you’ll see the footprints of Ohio Staters, Inc. all over campus in Columbus.
The 50 students, faculty and staff who make up Ohio Staters, Inc., formed in 1933, harness their creativity and dedication to undertake projects that promote the welfare and traditions of Ohio State. The awarding of this year’s E. Gordon Gee Spirit Award to Ohio Staters pays tribute to the dozens of ways in which past and present members have embodied the spirit of every age, including our present one. Ohio Staters quickly moved all project planning meetings to a virtual format after the outbreak of COVID-19. “It’s a challenging time for everyone, but we are doing all we can to offer service projects that allow students to participate safely,” says Catherine Montalto, a member of Ohio Staters, associate professor of consumer science and director of First Year Experience. With the aid of Montalto’s keen knowledge of Ohio Staters’ history, we selected 10 projects that represent this infallible spirit. Seeing them drives home the fact that the Ohio State experience and Ohio Staters’ impact go hand in hand.
Seat cushion sales
Since 1958, Ohio Staters has made the home game experience a little more comfortable for Buckeye fans by selling locally made, durable seat cushions outside the stadium. Over the years, design options have expanded from the standard cushion with the university seal to versions commemorating Brutus Buckeye, national championships, perfect seasons and Buckeye Nation.
It’s hard to imagine an Ohio State football game without the signature antics of Brutus Buckeye. Not long after Ohio Stater Ray Bourhis ’66 helped fashion the first Brutus out of papier-mache, Ohio Staters funded the construction of the 40-pound fiberglass shell version that debuted at the 1965 Homecoming game. After 55 years and countless iterations, Brutus Buckeye has lost none of the zany pep that makes him one of the most recognizable mascots in college football today.
Before there was Welcome Week, there were busloads of freshmen in Mary Janes and bowler hats discovering campus for the first time. For most of Ohio State’s history, students arrived for their first college term without a structured orientation program to help them settle into their new home. At the request of the university, Ohio Staters stepped in to offer comprehensive campus tours. Eventually, the campus tour program evolved into Ohio State’s Orientation Program.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Ohio Staters drove two scarlet and gray Ford Rally Wagons around the Oval to spread school spirit and convey information about campus happenings, from sporting events to student fundraisers. Decked out in swag, signboards and students with megaphones, the Rally Wagons played a significant role in providing attention-grabbing, real-time updates before the advent of the digital age.
Script Ohio monument
Standing 8 feet tall and 12 feet wide on the lawn next to Morrill and Lincoln Towers, the granite Script Ohio monument pays tribute to The Ohio State University Marching Band in the space where its members practice their quintessential Script Ohio formation to perfection. Notice that the monument, which was created by Ohio Staters, Inc. and unveiled in August 2018, intentionally leaves off the dot over the i to invite fans to dot it themselves in clever ways.
Browning Amphitheater stage
Constructed in 1926 to provide a venue for the performance of Shakespeare’s plays, the Browning Amphitheater in Mirror Lake Hollow morphed over time into a quiet study space. In honor of the 50th anniversary of Ohio Staters, alumni of the organization spearheaded an ambitious campaign to revive the amphitheater by funding construction of a modern performance center with a permanent stage, extended seating and lighting. Dedicated in 1987, the Outdoor Performance Center continues to host concerts, plays and dance performances, including the annual Jazz at Mirror Lake, held this year on Sept. 30, complete with student musicians and socially distanced audience members wearing face masks.
Ted Mack Amateur Hour
In 1951, Ohio Staters moonlighted as casting agents as they held first auditions for Ted Mack’s “Original Amateur Hour” television show, a popular forerunner for variety shows such as “America’s Got Talent.” Dozens of acts featuring Ohio State students, faculty and staff (and judged by two Ohio State staff members) were winnowed down to 18 that appeared in a final elimination contest broadcast from the Fairgrounds Coliseum in Columbus. A handful of those lucky acts were then selected for an all-expenses-paid trip to New York to appear on the nationally broadcast show.
Rose Bowl train trips
Nearly 2,300 Ohio State students were determined to cheer on their Buckeyes at the 1955 and 1958 Rose Bowls in Pasadena, California, even if it meant traveling 2,000 miles across the country to get there. Ohio Staters made the trips possible by reserving a train from Columbus to Los Angeles, with stops at the Grand Canyon and San Francisco along the way. All that travel was richly rewarded: Ohio State won both games.
Light Up the Lake
From November to February, strands of festive, twinkling lights adorn trees and shrubs around Mirror Lake and Browning Amphitheater. Ohio Staters conceived of the annual “Light Up the Lake” tradition in 2003 to bring extra warmth and cheer to campus in the winter months. Students, faculty and staff typically gather on fall semester’s Reading Day for a lighting ceremony that features a candlelit rendition of “Carmen Ohio.” This year, the lighting will be captured on Instagram @ohiostatersinc.
Outside the southwest corner of Ohio Stadium, nearly 200 buckeye trees honor a century’s worth of First Team All-American football players at Ohio State. Ohio Staters have helped maintain and beautify Buckeye Grove for the past 65 years, even going so far as to relocate 90 trees to a larger space in 1997. As the list of All-American honorees has expanded since the planting of the first tree in 1929, so has Buckeye Grove. Every fall, fans can be seen scouring the lawn for fallen buckeye nuts and their good luck.
About the author
Ashley Rabinovitch is a brand journalist who specializes in higher education, entrepreneurship and health care. She previously worked in campaign and legislative communications roles in Ohio state government. She lives in the German Village neighborhood of Columbus with her husband and dog.