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Ohio State University logo Recognizing Excellence

Distinguished Service Award

Alumni and other friends of The Ohio State University are a passionate lot. They remember their Ohio State ties, serving as ambassadors of the university around the world.

But a handful of alumni, retired faculty and administrators, and friends who have forged connections with the university truly stand out. It is for this outstanding group that university trustees established the Distinguished Service Award in 1952.

We are pleased to announce the following winners.

Recognizing Excellence at Ohio State

Current University Awards winners

Previous University Awards winners

Click on photo or scroll down the page to read winner's bio.

Vincent Aveni

Six years after Vincent Aveni received his bachelor’s degree in business from Ohio State, he founded Realty One in his hometown of Cleveland. The company has been hugely successful, and Aveni has never forgotten how much Ohio State helped him accomplish.

Aveni’s service to Ohio State has been prolific, including such highlights as his work on the latest fund-raising campaign committee and his aid to scholarship and housing programs for business students and athletes.

Fisher College of Business Dean Joseph Alutto called Aveni and his wife “unofficial ambassadors for Ohio State in the Cleveland area. They are generous with hosting Ohio State faculty and staff, and provide a stage for us to share with the Cleveland community the exciting progress being made here at Ohio State.”

Award presented: Summer Quarter Commencement, August 27, 2006

Vera Blaine

Vera Blaine has always had faith in Ohio State.

Blaine, known as Vickie, came to the university to study dance in 1952, before it even had a dance department. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Ohio State before joining the dance faculty in 1958 and becoming chair of the department in 1983.

Colleagues praise Blaine for her commitment to making dance a priority in elementary and high schools; for her tireless efforts to bring diversity to the dance department and the university; and for putting Ohio State on the dance world’s radar.

Professor Donald Harris, former arts dean, said Blaine’s work made it “clear to all that there was an important center for dance in the nation that was not located on the East or West Coasts but was situated here in the nation’s heartland.”

Award presented: Summer Quarter Commencement, August 27, 2006

Barbara Fergus

When Ohio State has needed help--whether it be an arts patron, a women’s advocate, or a business role model--Barbara Fergus has stepped up to the plate.

Last year, Fergus, a 1957 Ohio State College of Business graduate who owns Midwestern Auto Group, told graduating business students: “Remember The Ohio State University as a solid foundation from which you leapt into a glorious vision of your future.”

Fergus has lived by that advice. The Wexner Center, the libraries, WOSU, and Fisher College of Business, and programs that mentor women in the arts, technology, and politics all have benefited from her commitment to her alma mater.

Award presented: Spring Quarter Commencement, June 11, 2006

Arthur Hecker, Ph.D.

The nutrition drink Ensure is one example of how research labs at Ohio State and the Ross Products Division of Abbott Laboratories work together—teamwork that is largely due to Arthur Hecker’s commitment to the university.

“Art has always realized the value of the university to Ross and made a point to his staff that interactions with OSU should be fostered and nurtured,” said Chris Cordle, a research fellow at Ross.

In his 28 years at Ross, Hecker has helped more than 150 Ohio State students get jobs at Ross Labs. Recently, he helped secure $200,000 from Abbott, for the construction of a new food science building.

Hecker has retired as vice president for research, development, and scientific affairs at Ross, after overseeing more than 200 nutritional formulas and feeding devices.

Award presented: Winter Quarter Commencement, March 18, 2007

Dr. Ernest Johnson

When Dr. Ernest Johnson was studying medicine at Ohio State, people with physically disabilities were sometimes placed in “homes for the incurable.”

That practice didn’t sit well with Johnson, who devoted his career to rehabilitating people with physical disabilities.

As medical director of Dodd Hall Rehabilitation Hospital, Johnson helped the university achieve a reputation of excellence in physical medicine and rehabilitation. He also worked to develop housing designed for physically disabled people to live independently.

“He is the best recognized and most respected leader in the discipline of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in this country,” said Manuel Tzagournis, vice president for health sciences, dean of the College of Medicine, and professor of internal medicine emeritus.

Award presented: Spring Quarter Commencement, June 11, 2006

W. Ray Persons

It would have been easy for W. Ray Persons to give up on Ohio State.

Persons wanted to pursue his undergraduate degree at Ohio State, but when a lack of money got in the way, he returned to his home state of Georgia for his bachelor’s. He refused to be discouraged, and came back to Ohio State to work his way through law school.

Persons is a partner at King and Spaulding in Atlanta; a member of the exclusive International Society of Barristers; a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers; and an adjunct professor at Georgia State University Law School, but he has remembered his alma mater. He has endowed a scholarship for law students, and frequently returns to campus to speak with students.

“We’re proud of Ray and how he has used his Ohio State education,” said Nancy Rogers, dean of the law school. “He cares deeply about the university and preserving the role that it has played to open opportunities for him.”

Award presented: Autumn Quarter Commencement, December 10, 2006

Edward Ray, Ph.D.

Edward Ray spent 33 years at Ohio State, working his way from assistant professor of economics to department chairman to executive vice president and provost.

In 1992, Ray joined Ohio State’s Office of Academic Affairs, where he worked on budget matters and academic restructuring and encouraged colleges to work together on interdisciplinary projects. He also had a hand in developing academic and diversity plans that remain in place at Ohio State today.

“Ed was a straight shooter who could identify degrees of merit, who remained undaunted when bushels of numbers were dumped on his head, and who had an outstanding level of organizational common sense,” said former provost Joan Huber. “However, his most important quality was his absolute honesty in assessing what would be best for Ohio State.”

In 2003, Ray went from one OSU to another, taking a job as president of Oregon State University.

Award presented: Autumn Quarter Commencement, December 10, 2006

Richard Smith III

Richard Smith has never attended Ohio State as a student, but his commitment to the university has proven him a true Buckeye.

As executive vice president of NetJets Aviation, which operates out of Port Columbus International Airport, Smith has hired about 700 graduates in aviation, business, engineering and meteorology. He has been an advocate not only for the Aviation Department, but also for the Fisher College of Business, Undergraduate Admissions, the Department of Industrial, Welding and Systems Engineering, and the Wetlands Project.

“Richard Smith’s passion for The Ohio State University is evident to all who know him and hear him lament that he isn’t an alumnus of OSU,” said Nancy Marzella, director of major gifts for University Development. “It is to our great benefit that Richard adopted OSU as his alma mater.”

Award presented: Winter Quarter Commencement, March 18, 2007

2006 Distinguished Service Award


Previous winners

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