Bulls to Buckeyes: Terry Etling
September 18, 2012
How did you choose Ohio State?
I have an issue of Life magazine that was my first connection to Ohio State. There’s a picture in it of my mother, father, and younger brother, who also went to Ohio State, and the champion Angus bull. My father bought the Duke of Milburn, the sire, or father, of that winning bull, from Ohio State for about $30,000. This was in the 1940s, so that was a lot of money for them. Although my father was an industrialist with seven factories around Ohio that manufactured building products, his passion was raising purebred Angus cattle. I grew up on the family farm, where my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were raised. I was active in Future Farmers of America and 4-H, and I remember coming to Ohio State to judge livestock when I was in high school. I decided to follow my father’s passion for raising cattle by studying animal science at Ohio State.
You graduated from what is now the College of Social Work. How did that come about?
People often discover new interests when they have an opportunity to explore outside their everyday surroundings. Ohio State offered an array of options, and I soon learned that animal science wasn’t my passion. I shifted to business, or commerce, as they called it then. I was nearing graduation when I realized I didn’t want to work in the field of business either. Courses in anthropology, sociology, and psychology were a better fit. I discovered social work—which was under commerce then—and earned a bachelor’s degree in social welfare. Taking the business courses, though, gave me a tremendous advantage when it came to overseeing the business side of human services.
What is a favorite Ohio State memory?
Ohio State opened the world to me and gave me the chance to learn, to grow, and to find myself. I especially remember some of the great discussions in the dorm late at night. I’ll always remember the long talks with new friends from different parts of the country or the world. I valued the diversity of a larger community, especially since my graduating class in Wayne County had about 70 students.
What area of social work intrigues you?
My primary interest in social work is outcome-based research. You look at services and decide which outcomes are successful and which are not. This approach helps providers to identify and foster their strengths. There’s a good deal of variability among providers of the same service. As a trustee for the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, an outgrowth of the Joint Commission on Hospital Accreditation, I chaired the standards committee and read survey reports for those being considered for accreditation. A lot of energy and focus went toward a process that had no bearing on achieving the organization’s mission. I hope more effort will go toward outcomes in the future.
What does it mean to you to be recognized by the President’s Club?
As a President’s Club donor, you have the chance to make a big impact on someone’s life. At Ohio State there are so many ways you can help. I give to the college that launched my career in the hope that another student will find his or her passion there, too. I think we all want to be part of something bigger. As we get older, we want to be part of a community. You realize that you need to think beyond what’s going to work at the moment and focus on what may work down the road.
My father used to tell me, “You’ve had advantages that other people haven’t, and you need to think about that as you go through life.” As a first-generation college student and alumnus of Ohio State, I know how fortunate I am to have had the opportunity to earn my degree.
Many alumni of the College of Social Work make the assumption that the university doesn’t need private support. We have to do a better job of telling the story of Ohio State’s successes and how the support makes an impact now and into the future. For those who are able to give, I recommend doing so while they can enjoy seeing how the gifts make a difference at Ohio State.