Ohio State Impact

Schoenbaum Story: The Joys of Ohio State

Betty and Alex have given generously of their time and resources.

Betty and Alex Schoenbaum

The names Betty and Alex Schoenbaum are synonymous with leadership and philanthropy. Their distinguished record of service has left a major imprint on Ohio State, and on organizations and causes around the globe. The couple’s generosity will live on through the university’s students and programs for generations to come.

Although time has passed since her undergraduate years in the 1930s, Betty clearly remembers the journey she shared with Alex, beginning with a chance meeting her first night on campus. Her dorm, Neil Hall, was divided into groups, and students were directed to a particular fraternity mixer. Betty’s destination was Phi Sigma Delta, where Alex, a handsome Ohio State football player from West Virginia, asked her to dance.

In 1939, Betty earned a certificate of commerce, and Alex a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Nine months later, the couple married and moved into an efficiency apartment near campus while Alex sold used cars, and then insurance. During the 1950s, Alex built the Parkette, a drive-in restaurant on an empty lot beside his family’s bowling alley in Charleston, West Virginia. Eventually, that business evolved into the successful Shoney’s chain.

“Our lives have been a dream come true,” said Betty of her 56 years with Alex and the raising of their four children: Raymond, Jeffry, Joann, and Emily. Alex died in 1996 at the age of 81.

“Nobody could visualize a life like I had. Even though my husband was charitable beyond what we really had at times, we managed to pay it and keep giving.”

In addition to financial support, Alex and Betty served on numerous Ohio State boards and committees, earning accolades for their contributions. Together, they received the Distinguished Service Award in 1990. Alex served on the university’s Foundation Board, the National Campaign Steering Committee, the Fisher College of Business Campaign Committee, and the Campaign for Athletics Excellence. Betty has been a dedicated lifetime member of the Ohio State Alumni Club of Sarasota-Manatee and a member of Women & Philanthropy. Betty received the Everett D. Reese Medal in 2002 and the Alumni Association’s Robert M. Duncan Alumni Citizenship Award in 2010.

The Schoenbaum legacy at Ohio State is far-reaching and includes these major gifts:

  • College of Education and Human Ecology — Schoenbaum Family Center at Weinland Park
  • Fisher College of Business—The Alex and Betty Schoenbaum Undergraduate Support Fund; naming of Schoenbaum Hall in honor of their generosity to the Fisher College of Business Campaign
  • Critical Difference for Women—The Betty Frank Schoenbaum Critical Difference for Women Re-entry Scholarship Fund
  • Athletics—Schoenbaum Hall of Champions at the Woody Hayes Athletic Facility

Betty is especially proud of the scholarships she helped establish at Ohio State. “Helping another person obtain an education is the greatest thing, especially when it’s at one of the finest universities in the country,” she said.

Betty, now 95, serves as president and trustee of the Shoenbaum Family Foundation in Sarasota, Florida, where she now lives. She vows to maintain her Buckeye connection, even wearing scarlet and gray apparel to watch games on TV.

“But for Ohio State, I never would have had the beautiful journey through life that I have had,” she said. “I would not have had the joy of giving, the joy of living, and the joy of being a part of Ohio State.”

To watch her story, visit go.osu.edu/schoenbaum.