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Finding Your Way

August 12, 2013

You never forget your first day at Ohio State. Just ask one of our 500,000-plus living alumni. Their stories are different, but they repeat a two-word mantra: get involved. Read on to find out how five alumni became Buckeyes.

Manuel Tzagournis, '56 (former dean, College of Medicine)

“People were very eager to make friends, because we were all in the same boat.”

The first person in his family of Greek immigrants to go to college, Tzagournis earned three degrees from Ohio State--and was a fraternity brother of Ohio State coaching legend Earle Bruce.

In the fall of 1952, Tzagournis became the first member of his Greek immigrant family to attend college. Arriving alone at Union Train Station near downtown Columbus, Tzagournis toted a large suitcase nearly four miles to his new home, a temporary dorm near Lane Avenue. The first of five boys from his family who would attend Ohio State, the Youngstown native knew virtually no one on campus.

“I certainly had some feelings of being in an unfamiliar place without my family. I was a little homesick, but that left once I made friends and pledged a fraternity. It was a surprise that I needed to study considerably more than I had to make the grades I needed for medical school. That was an awakening for me.”

Tzagournis pledged the Chi Phi fraternity and became sophomore class president. Still, he recalls a prickly early encounter with a fraternity brother who'd eventually become a Buckeye legend.

“Freshmen (pledges) could only watch one hour of television a week. So I would come down once in a while and stand in the doorway to watch TV. And Earle Bruce was an upperclassman and he said, ‘Pledge, go upstairs and study! If you are going to be a doctor, then I want you to be a good one because you’ll be my doctor. Get up there.’ We both still laugh about it.”

Tzagournis earned his bachelor’s, master's and medical degrees from Ohio State. Rising through the ranks of the Ohio State College of Medicine, he became the dean, then vice president for health services before retiring in 1999. He still has an office on campus.

Don Schriver, '69 (retired dairy marketer)

“When you come out of Ohio State, you will be able to deal with real life and know how to adapt.”

Schriver credits an academic advisor with helping him find the balance he needed to succeed academically.

Pulling up on a Vespa motorscooter with his suitcase, Don Schriver arrived on Ohio State’s campus in style in 1964. The Lorain County native found a room at a boarding house near King Avenue, where his older brother lived.

“Learning is a skill and there is an organization to it. The sooner you get that figured out, the better you are going to do. Keep an eye on the good students, you can learn from them how to be a good student.”

Falling in with a group of guys who played intramural football and basketball together, dubbing themselves “The Variables,” Schriver also worked odd jobs such as calling square dances while performing in the university chorus. But he had spread himself too thin.

“I had a very good advisor who, after I had gotten involved in several different activities, pulled me aside and said, ‘Schriver, don’t confuse activity with accomplishment.’ My grades weren’t doing that great, and I had to make a decision to cut back on some things.”

Schriver graduated with a degree in agricultural economics and was drafted into the Army, serving in Vietnam. His successful dairy industry career includes time as CEO of Milk Marketing Inc.

Erin Moriarty, '73 (CBS News correspondent)

“It was a real political awakening that first year. I think we were all kind of forced to become adults.”

Moriarty became an orientation leader during her sophomore year, in part because
her own Vietnam War-era introduction to school had been so unsettling.

A self-described “townie” from a Columbus suburb, Erin Moriarty’s 1970 introduction to campus was a reflection of an unusual, war-torn time. She remembers snaking her way through National Guard checkpoints set up around Ohio State as the campus reopened under martial law following disturbances related to anti-war rallies.

“There were barriers to roads, and you could only drive certain places. It was kind of exciting, but not the traditional idea of the way to start college. Once football started in the fall, it seemed to take over for everything else and things became more routine, but all through that year there were demonstrations and anti-war activities.”

Moriarty dove headlong into student politics and joined a sorority. She and her sister also employed more creative tactics to meet students.

“My sister will kill me for mentioning this, but she wanted to meet some guys. So we would go down to the doughnut shop, buy some doughnuts and go sell them in the men’s dorms: primarily in the football players’ dorms. We would do anything to meet people. We were very creative so we could meet people, especially guys.”

Moriarty has earned bachelor’s degrees (sociology and behavioral sciences) and a law degree from Ohio State. She is a correspondent for the CBS News program 48 Hours.

Jennifer Rose Hilkert, '88 (head of a hardware wholesaler)

“If you can develop a relationship with a faculty member or a staff member, a mentor, it goes a long way towards making the most of the experience.”

Hilkert started out as a homesick first-year student--and transformed herself into an honors program grad and the 1987 Homecoming Queen.

When Hilkert came to Ohio State in the fall of 1984, she followed in the footsteps of her older brother. She remembers being “anxious” when she was dropped off at Taylor Towers on Lane Avenue late in the day.

“Everyone was really friendly. At first, I certainly remember being quite anxious and homesick. I think the passage of time helps and the more involved you get.”

To try something new, Hilkert rushed Phi Beta Pi and served on the Panhellenic Council.

“I thought it would be a good way to make Ohio State seem a little smaller. However, in hindsight, I think it becomes a small place for everyone; it doesn’t matter what you become involved in as long as you become involved in something.”

Hilkert graduated from the honors accounting program and went on to law school. She is now president of Botzum Bros. Hardware in Akron.

Salvador Cicero, '98 (attorney)

“Take a chance on yourself; you never know where things can take you.”

A native of Mexico, Cicero was drawn to Ohio State for the highly ranked law school;
he had never heard of Ohio State football before coming to campus.

When Cicero landed on campus in June 1995, he was a curious 23-year-old.

“I was a little bit afraid to leave something that was so different from what I knew where no one spoke Spanish. I stuck out like a sore thumb, I am fair-skinned but because of my accent, it was obvious I wasn’t from there.”

Cicero says friendly students and professors helped him adapt to life in Columbus.

“Be open to the experience. Many Latinos are not familiar with fraternities and sororities. Don’t go into it with preconceived notions, go see whether it could be for you or not.”

Cicero, who received his law degree from Ohio State, is the former president of the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois and has served in senior-level positions at the Mexican Foreign Ministry.