The Victory Bell: Shirley and George Caronis
October 14, 2013
George and Shirley Caronis
George Caronis often told family and friends that he and his wife, Shirley, would never divorce because one of them would have to forfeit Ohio State football tickets. After all, they each grew up in Columbus, graduated from Ohio State and maintained strong ties to the university. And together they had visited every Big Ten stadium.
George’s comments were clearly in fun because their marriage was stronger than ever after more than 50 years. Recognized by the President’s Club since 1967, they decided together to make a gift through their estate. But before fulfilling their plan, George passed away suddenly in August 2010. Now, Shirley has accomplished the goal of “keeping the Victory Bell ringing for many years” with a fund in their names that helps maintain the Buckeye tradition.
Shirley and George met on a blind date in 1955, although she admits she knew already who he was. “Everyone on campus knew of George because he was president of the Student Senate and involved in many activities at Ohio State,” said Shirley, who was asked by a sorority sister to go with George to a surprise party. He had graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and completed ROTC training in Oklahoma, returning to Columbus for two weeks over the holiday season. “We saw each other during most of that time and then he took off for Italy to serve in the Army for 18 months.”
Shirley wrote to George nearly every day. When he returned home, he gave her a scrapbook filled with all her letters. They were married 10 months later.
Shirley graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting as one of only two women in the major at that time. She initially worked as a secretary, then landed accounting positions and passed the CPA exam. After the Army, George worked as the assistant dean of men at Ohio State and later entered the insurance business, where he specialized in corporate pension plans. He went on to earn a master’s degree in sociology from Ohio State and holds the distinction of being the last nationally elected president of The Ohio State University Alumni Association. Presidents are now appointed.
“George was smart, kind and considerate—and always did small things to show his appreciation to everyone,” said Shirley, sharing that his employees returned the sentiment by hosting parties in his honor, once even giving him a crown to wear. She still has the picture.
After George retired as executive vice president of Argon in Clearwater, Florida, they moved back to Columbus to be closer to friends and family, including their two grandchildren. Shirley now keeps busy by volunteering at the local library and hospital, where she especially enjoys delivering flowers and mail to patients so she can see them smile.
“George and I have been pleased to be able to give back to the university that provided us with such a great education,” she said.