Yes, we did talk about the past a little bit and we made some interesting discoveries. Yes, we did talk about the Dean and everyone seemed to remember a different person. Yes, we met with some students and believe it or not, they were interested in the Ohio Fellows experience because they haven’t had anything like that in their programs. We reunited with 86 year old Vern Alden, we toured a modern campus with enough historical elements to be familiar to those of us from the 1960’s, we bowled miserably, we ate well and we even talked about the future. We also missed many of you.
As you reconnect to a time long ago, some of those memories involve Ohio Fellows and some do not. We started comparing notes from those days and many of us discovered that we didn’t really overlap much – oh, maybe a year at the beginning or the end – but those who attended this reunion were generally getting to know each other for the first time. And even if we did know each other 40 years ago, so much has happened that it really is like the first time again.
Some people vividly remembered meeting with guest speakers on campus. Some remembered hanging out at Chubb House. Some remembered gathering at the Dean’s house out in the country. Some were drawn to the program because of summer internship possibilities. Some remembered only really being Ohio Fellows when they went on the trips. That is how it was for me. While I had vague memories of Chubb House and the Dean’s house, getting off campus and getting away from a pretty demanding routine was the time to experience Ohio Fellows. There were trips to Washington, DC and Boston.
Through all of this conversation there was an interesting take-away. While we might not have known each other well 40 years ago, that Ohio Fellows selection did pick out interesting people who are still easy to talk to. There was an intellectual stimulation that some of us don’t regularly get in our day to day lives wherever we have ended up. It was fun.
More than any other topic we talked about while hanging out, the Dean, and Ohio Fellows leadership in general, brought the most variety of response. To some of us, the Dean was a friend and mentor who challenged us to do more, plan bigger and accomplish much. To some of us, we were on the outside looking in – we were intimidated by his persona and gruff manner. For various reasons some felt that he was only interested in those folks whose goals included Harvard Business School. The fact that he had been involved in our selection and knew that we were headed in all sorts of different directions didn’t seem to enter our minds at the time. We were reminded that the Dean had his own issues that he was dealing with (What? Could you reach the ancient age of 60 and still have issues?!) and that he did the best he could do. One member put it well – some of us needed challenging and some of us needed nurturing – the Dean was good at the challenging but did not give the outward appearance of providing much nurturing.
So some of us found what we needed from other leaders. John Chandler was remembered as being very approachable. Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh were interested in our dreams, regardless of where they were taking us. Vern Alden, then and now, was proud of “his kids”. And while he had so much on his plate in the late 1960’s, he has not forgotten OU or us.
On Saturday morning we attended a symposium with about 50 OU students who represented various scholarship programs (Cutler, Urban, Templeton, Appalachian, Business Fellows…). The first speaker was Chuck Underwood (’72) who spoke about Generational communications – his way of looking at generational characteristics and helping groups understand how to communicate and work with each other across generational boundaries. The second speaker was Jason Weaver (’97) who spoke about marketing your message in a world of internet, facebook, twitter and other electronic instant media. The questions from the students were as good as the presentations, but it was only a taste of what was to come later.
We broke for lunch and the students had been cued to break themselves up and spread out across the tables so that we could engage them one on one and in small groups. Nearly every table had a lively discussion. There were 3 young women from the Business Fellows program at our table, and after a brief presentation by Terry Moore about the Ohio Fellows Program, these young women wanted to know more and understand. One of us described a typical Ohio Fellows gathering where the questions asked by an art major or a social work major were going to be questions that were not even within the realm of possibility from a math major or an engineer, and vice versa. This was one of the strengths of the program – the possibility of looking at a problem from a completely different perspective. Just think if you could train yourself to look at problems from more than one perspective how strong your problem solving skills might become. These Business Fellows saw the differences right away. As one of them pointed out, “we need that kind of variety – there really isn’t that big of a difference between a marketing major and an accounting major.” We suggested that they start by integrating each other’s program activities, which is something that they never do now.
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, we were young people in transition. We had been successful in high school, we were in the process of being successful in college and we sure did have plans to be successful after that. Forty years goes by and we have lived life and made contributions. The reunion had nothing to do with putting a yardstick to our accomplishments and seeing how we measured up to each other or to the Dean’s expectations. We made it this far and without a doubt we have each been successful by one measure or another.
The ironic and exciting thing is that once again we find ourselves near the verge of another transition. Some people call it retirement, some people call it the next phase of our lives. So we are in our 60’s and we hope we have another 25-30 good years left. We probably aren’t planning to plop into a rocking chair. What are we doing? Some of us are traveling since we didn’t do much when we were working and raising kids. (Lynne and I have been on 2 of the Ohio U river boat cruises in Europe – excellent) Some of us are finding this to be a time to give back – volunteer with the organization for which you are currently passionate about. Some of us are playing. Some of us are pursuing a totally different avocation than the one we worked in for so many years. But in the same way we were able to stimulate and inspire each other in that previous life, we have found that Ohio Fellows still have a way of inspiring each other by just sharing who we are, what we are doing and why. Maybe there will be some bright college kids who want to hear some of this stuff – that would be icing. The real value was just getting together and realizing that no matter how far we ventured over the last 40 years, no matter how much we did together when we were on campus the first time, Ohio Fellows still have something to say to each other that is worth listening to. Come find out for yourself next time.
The meeting of the Ohio Fellows in September 2009 had an intriguing central theme: Intergenerational Strategy. Chuck Underwood of The Generational Imperative and Jason Weaver of Sway, Inc. set out the challenge for businesses and management in dealing with the generational differences for management planning and marketing strategy. The differences between 5 living generations were illuminating on historical issues as well as opportunities for the future. The Cutler, Urban and Appalachian Scholars, along with other scholarship students participated in the program and had lunch with the Ohio Fellows and presentors.
I was impressed by the interest that the various scholars had in a concept of a focus across major interdisciplinary lines, i.e. engineering students interacting with those in other programs like music, art, journalism, math, government, biology and so forth. The energy evident in the current generation of students becomes infectious in those they contact. In discussions with various university persons including President McDavis, this eagerness to learn and interact with past generations has grown more pronounced in the last four or five years.
There are a lot of ways that those of who participated in the Ohio Fellows program have impacted the world around us. This is another opportunity that a personal involvement could make a difference in the education of the generations who will take over from us. All of us still have insight and connectedness to share with those around us. I hope a group of the Ohio Fellows (and Gals) will see a way to connect to the current generation of students seeking and learning how our universe plays host to the co-creation of its sons and daughters.
Perhaps a blog or list-serve of ideas would be helpful to explore elements that we as individuals and/or as a group could participate in an ongoing way with the current student scholars program. There are some of us who might welcome a semester on campus as part of a program experience aimed to bring students into deeper contact across the various academic disciplines. If there is a time to get engaged, the consensus of all those at the weekend would agree that now is a prime time. And my experience is that where there is a vision and interconnection, there is no lack of resources.
Being an Ohio Fellow certainly changed my life for the better. I came into Ohio University as a very introverted, socially immature person with strong intellectual interests and abilities in mathematics and science. In short, I was (and to some significant extent still am) a nerd. However, at least I did not look like a stereotypical nerd, because I was (and still am) quite physically fit. (Did and does that make me an alpha nerd?)
Anyway -- during my freshman year, at the end of my successful Honors College admission interview with Dr. Samuel Jasper, he mentioned the Ohio Plan, escorted me to another office nearby, and introduced me to Dr. John Chandler. Dr. Jasper and Dr. Chandler must have perceived that I had the potential to become much more than I was currently on track toward becoming. After talking to me for a while, Dr. Chandler basically invited me on the spot to join the Ohio Plan. I wish I could recall the exact date, because it was a major turning point in my life. I began to confidently think of my capabilities, my career aspirations, and my whole life in much broader and higher level terms.
My experiences as an Ohio Fellow developed me in ways that my academic studies alone could not have done. I learned to talk to with genuine interest and to influen
ce and be influenced by smart and accomplished people whose core areas of expertise were very different than mine. I learned that being successful and influential in one's career required more than just being smart and working hard. I began to see that interpersonal, communications, and political skills were important ones for successful managers and leaders; and even though such skills were not among my natural abilities, I learned that by the combination of simple awareness and conscientious effort, I could (and did) cultivate those skills in myself. Learning those things before I graduated from college (as opposed to learning them on the job) was a great initial boost to my career. My experiences as an Ohio Fellow on top of being in the Honors College and graduating summa cum laude propelled into and throughout a long and successful career with one of the world's premier corporations, ExxonMobil. I was even able to overcome the great misfortune of enduring a very bad first marriage and a very long divorce process without suffering too much negative career impact.
Now, I'm healthy, wealthy, and retired; but I'm still reaping the benefits of being a Ohio Fellow. The benefit of having such a special bond to keep me in touch with and draw me back to Ohio University is very important to me now. And, one day, a significant portion of that wealth I'm accumulated will be given back to Ohio University to help nurture programs like the Ohio Fellows -- and of course the Mathematics Department.
I sincerely hope that our most recent gathering in Athens is not our last. To me such gatherings have been much more than mere reunions. Because, we have had interesting guest speakers and thought-provoking discussions along with socializing and some fun, such weekend events have been for me a welcome continuation of the kinds of activities that we participated in when we were undergraduate Ohio Fellows. Plain old reunions are to me mostly about recalling and talking about the past -- which is okay up to point. For me, what we did at our recent gathering was creating new intellectual, educational, and social experiences. Because of such gatherings, the Ohio Fellows is not just a pleasant part of my past, it is a pleasant part of my life today. I wish and hope other Ohio Fellows would come to share my perspective so that future gatherings in Athens will be better attended. Let's have more gatherings like the one we just had, but let's not call them reunions. Personally, I'd be up for annual or bi-annual gatherings (preferably in a early fall), and I'd be willing pay significantly more than $50 to defray the costs. A suggested next step would be to ask other Ohio Fellows via email what sorts of new experience and learning opportunities would draw them to a future gathering.
Good-bye for now,
A few things come to mind. One, I would love to have a list of the Ohio Fellows' email addresses. I'd love to know what they are all doing,thinking, so many years down the road. What has defined us, refined us, in life's crucible? Myself, I feel keenly the way big picture issues get played out in daily life: How do we help each other in this world most directly, and with greatest effectiveness? And at whose level of perception? The world, of course, is differently defined for a 10-year old son, a 14 year old daughter, a husband, a parent, a community at large.....
I am living at the epicenter of progress, Silicon Valley; my husband John is a professor of Computer Science at Stanford. And there are wonderful things that come from that world. But I am every day dismayed at the degree of separation, the huge effort it takes to build community and consensus ( in schools, in classes, in community groups). The practice of submission to common goals is not high on the value scale. And while I see a lot of exceptional ability and accomplishment, I see it framed as individual trajectory. So I wonder if the focus on individualized accomplishment has been misplaced in our generation?
What fills YOUR day? Or the day of any other Ohio Fellow? I do the art of dance thing at Stanford ( it was boring to the general Fellows population then, it probably still is, but I persist....Stanford is getting its money's worth and then some....). Professional accomplishment is only a small part of life. The dog, the kids, the baseball games, the swim meets, the faculty meetings, homework, neighborhood life and kindnesses, the flu.... I try to make a difference in people's lives in concrete and positive ways every day, in ways that are meaningful for them. Small potatoes?
Used to think so, don't any more.
Since your last missive, I have returned from Hawaii (where we have a house that we visit 4-5 times a year), have been to Atlanta (where I chair a grant review panel for the American Cancer Society), and to Asilomar in Monterey for a Departmental research retreat.
I am happily married, for 19 years, to another scientist, 12 years my senior. My journalist former husband and I split in 1978...sigh. But, we both learned, and we both are married again for an extended time period. My current hub is retiring this summer, although I am not...he is also on the faculty at Berkeley and is quite a well known (some would say notorious) scientist.
I am an Adjunct Professor (non-ladder track, but that is another very, very long story) in Molecular and Cell Biology where I run a medium sized lab with wonderful graduate students and undergrads, teach biochemistry, and generally rabble rouse on this campus about improving education and increasing diversity in the sciences. The latter has me on an advisory panel for the National Institutes of Health as well as on the Women in Cell Biology Committee of the American Society for Cell Biology.
We have no kids (except for many years of "kids" all of the same age group...undergrads and grads...my hub has trained 36 PhDs, I have graduated 6 PhDs), but we recently (2 years ago) opened our home to two cats...one adopted Mike in a sandtrap on a golf course when she was not yet old enough to be weaned. Turns out she has congenital glaucoma and lacks lenses...almost blind and on 5 medicines each morning and evening for life...already through 6 surgeries. These two furs are the other women in Mike's life...fortunately he feels they in no way replace me!
Would enjoy hearing about the OFP reunion way back when...in 84 I was here in Berkeley with an Assistant Research Biochemist position. Got my PhD here at Berkeley in 1979, headed to Seattle for a postdoc, and returned and married Mike (last name, Chamberlin).
I have little spontaneous time in the last 5 years or so given the large amount of stuff I do with students outside the classroom on campus as well as the usual list of events (faculty meetings, science meetings, seminars given, seminars listened to...etc....all that academic stuff).
For fun, we used to run a lot, but time squelched that. Now we play golf when we can (Mike more than do I), and I still walk a lot. When in Hawaii, we snorkel, hike, golf and read-read-read...mostly mindless stuff since our occupations have so much brainwork. But, I read mysteries, science fiction (not the spaceship variety, but Varley, Heinlein, and such), poetry (esp. women writers), and historical fiction. My latest pleasureable brain-engaging book was Consilience by Edward Wilson...my latest favorite brain dis-engaging book was anything by Lilian Jackson-Braun, Robert Parker, or Anne Rice.
We live in the hills behind the Berkeley Campus and look down over the Bay. Our house in Hawaii (on the Big Island, Kona Coast) is about the same elevation, ~800 feet above sea level, and looks across the Pacific...West toward Asia.
Today Indiana must be layered in snow, according to what we hear...we are layered in clouds, but snow is non-existent here..."more bettah go visit it."
I am happy, feel reasonably productive, have not enough time for all I would like to do, keep a tidy but not spotless house, love to cook (so does Mike), and enjoy wines of all sorts. I visit Ohio (one sister still lives in Columbus, and older relatives are in Cleveland) about every two years, and am happy to have been raised there but am very happy to be in California.
Enough ear bending!!! Take care, and let's maintain a peripatetic correspondence at least.
I don't know whether you remember me but I met you when we both were members of the Ohio Fellows and Cutlar Scholar programs. I remember you as a friendly, bright and outgoing “anchor” of the group. You perhaps made a more lasting impression on me than most of the other fellows.
So I was pleased to see the article, “An Academic Experiment” in Ohio Today. I am responding to your invitation at the end of that article to get in touch with you. I will have to study a map to see how close Spencer, Indiana, is to Urbana, Ohio.
After my undergrad work at OU I stayed around Athens for a couple of years as a freelance artist. I supported myself by publishing a book of drawings of Athens and by doing commissions for friends in the area. I then moved to New York to attend Pratt Institute for a masters degree in fine arts. About a year and one half into that work and after marrying a great gal from OU I was contacted by a former professor at OU about the Ohio Artist-In-Residence program and subsequently become the first artist-in-residence. We moved to Champaign County in the west central part of the State to start that program. Jane and I have lived here since then except for the one year when I moved back to New York to finish the masters degree.
Professionally, I now work in bronze. Have been fortunate to be active with major national commissions in recent years for the Mayo Clinic and have also done a larger lifesize bronze of General William Tecumseh Sherman for Lancaster Ohio, a Woody Hayes bust for Anne Hayes and a number of other portrait works. Have also been active in publishing more books of drawings and own a small printing company as well as an internet company (main- net.com). I was honored with the Ohioanna Award for art in 1999.
My experience with Ohio Fellows gave me a similar comfort level with business leaders and others as you described in the article. To be “undaunted by celebrity”, was probably the result of being tapped for the Fellows allowing me to mix with great people like you and with some of the special faculty and distinguished visitors. It was a confidence builder and it also sparked my interest in business.
As an artist I sensed that Leslie Rollins felt that I was out of place in the group. I guess that the lack of attention was what sent that signal but it may have been more his sense of a lack of common ground with my interest area that kept him at a distance. I took that as a challenge to show business ability and that is part of the reason that I keep one foot in the business world even today. The other reason is a practical one to even out the irregular income from my artwork.
Thursday, 6/9/05, 11:03 AM
I'm having a wonderful life. You can find out a lot about me by looking me up on google, amazon or my own website -- www.young-eisendrath.com . Mostly I'm a psychoanalyst and a writer, along with the whole family life business. Have published 13 books translated into 20 languages! Can't believe it, but I'm now twice a grandparent with a grandson who lives in LA with his parents and a granddaughter who lives in Palo Alto with her parents. I have one son who is still a freewheeling rockclimber. I live in Vermont on 600 unpopulated acres -- with my husband and our dog, Romeo. I have a book contract with Little, Brown just now and come down to New York for meetings with my editor there and for a project I'm doing with Tricycle, the Buddhist magazine. That's enough detail.
One thing I am doing in my dotage is that I have founded The Radius Foundation, Inc. which has as its stated purpose the facilitation of dialogue between conceptual paradigms. Why that?
For most of my life I have been interested in various ways of knowing things. Big things, like what is life all about and what am I doing here? Through this exploration, I have encountered a wide variety of talented people, interesting disciplines, and rich ideas. These are the fabric of the great paradigms of idea and culture in which we live -- the paradigms of science, art, religion, philosophy, etc. This journey has brought me into contact with some of the great minds of our day from wide and disparate thought, viewpoint, scholarship, and experience. One of the most obvious things about this study is that, typically, people from different conceptual perspectives have virtually no idea what other equally gifted minds are saying from their own perspective. I find this astonishing and annoying.
One of the most obvious areas here is the so-called “clash” between science and religion.
It is easy for most of us to call to mind an example of some religious authority expressing an uninformed opinion on science or some recent scientific discovery. That’s easy. But this unfortunately cuts both ways. I have had many conversations with leading scientists (a particular Nobel laureate comes to mind) who have only a grade school understanding of religion and philosophy. In this connection, it is interesting to note that such titles as “scientist” or “physicist” were unknown before about 1830. Prior to that time the people who did these things were known as “natural philosophers.” An echo of this remains in the Ph.D. degree in which the Ph still stands for Philosophy. (I have one of these degrees myself, albeit from an infamous degree-mill in New Orleans).
Anyway, the great scientist, with whom I was pleased to share a Cobb salad, not only evinced a Dick-and-Jane understanding of philosophy and religion, he seemed to think that the questions presented by those disciplines were somehow trivial or beneath consideration, leaving one to wonder why such lame-brains as Plato, Plotinus, Aquinas, and Newton bothered to expend such intellectual effort to examine those questions.
An excellent case in point was the recent PBS special on String Theory (“Elegant Universe”). Embedded in this excellent program were a few people questioning what exactly was String Theory . . . a theory that is unverifiable and presents no testable hypotheses. Is this science or philosophy? Is it physics or metaphysics. The answer to the question seems to entirely depend on the conceptual paradigm of the questioner.
And so, as a result, these two competing paradigms seem content to shout at each other across the gulf of assumptions and prejudices. Both sides seem locked into their own worlds. Both sides have complete languages that are very useful in discussing issues with others within the same paradigm, but have no value outside the conceptual system that bounds their world. Why does this have to be so?
Those in the business of bridging this gap almost always have the agenda of “convincing” the other side. Perhaps the best example is the Templeton Foundation, which is keenly interested a dialog between science and religion, but seems, at heart, to be interested in “proving” religious claims with the means of science. Ultimately, this isn’t going to go anywhere. Let me state my case by oversimplifying it:
Take the question: “Why is the world so complex?” The answer from religion is, “It’s supposed to be – God made it that way.” The answer from science is, “That’s its nature, but, eventually, we will figure it all out.” The answer from religion fails because it doesn’t shed any light on the world in which we must live and operate. The answer from science fails because it is rather like saying that one can understand the reality of a kiss by measuring its duration and galvanic skin response.
But Templeton is not alone in this effort and there are now a number of organizations and institutions which have as their stated purpose bridging this particular gulf. Yet most of these organizations seem to be trying to explain another paradigm by means of their own. What is needed are better questions and a new point of departure.
So it is into this fray that Radius Foundation is about to wade. Not in an attempt to push a particular doctrine, but in an attempt to ask better questions and provide a forum for better dialog. The objective is open a few eyes and minds. Mine first.
Anyway, this is the issue that has seized my interest for a long time and I am now going to try to see what I can do with it. I’ll tell you more as time and motivation permit.
Dear Fellow Fellows:
I wish I could be with all of you right now. I’d love to see Athens again and trade lies about how good we all look to each other as we examine each others’ wrinkles (or as I prefer to think of them, signs of character, fortitude and wisdom).
The Ohio Fellows Program occupies a place in my mind that looks a lot like a pool hall. At one end is a gigantic table. At the end of the table stands a snowy-haired elfish-looking old guy chalking a cue stick. He gathers a group of billiard balls, puts them on the table, racks them in formation, leans over the table, places the cue ball in position, draws a bead, and with tremendous force, shoots. Balls explode in every direction, bouncing off the rails, bouncing off each other, bouncing into the air, scattering, dropping into pockets, falling on the floor, and finally coming to rest, each one far from where it began, each one positioned to move in entirely new directions; each one exactly where the old guy intended it to be. And the old guy stands back and smiles.
When I tell people the story of how Les Rollins, Vern Alden and the Ohio Fellows affected my life, even I am forced to admit that it sounds like some sort of fantastic, surrealistic dream. That single year in Athens, Ohio has reverberated through thirty years. That single year in Athens, Ohio included a night on which I and another Fellow drove my car through the hills of Athens for hours under a full moon with the headlights turned off, then stopped by a fenced, took positions on opposite sides of the fence and debated the meaning of existence until the sun came up. That single year in Athens, Ohio included the unadulterated joy of galloping bareback into the wind on a horse named Mother Hubbard, who generously allowed me to love her. That single year in Athens, Ohio included a mind-bending number of challenges to my neat, tidy view of the world and myself. Outrageous things were said to me, things like “You think in a very unusual way. It would be interesting to see what happens if that way of thinking is applied to business”, things like ”Have you ever written a book? No? Would you like to try?”, things like: “Why are you wasting your life being less than you could?”, things like: “Guess what? You’re flying to Boston tomorrow, things like: “I’m putting you in charge of the Ohio Fellows, figure it out for yourself, and I’ll see you in a year.” That single year introduced me to passionate writers, passionate sculptors, passionate engineers, passionate athletes, and a collective of like souls who made the air electric wherever they went. They were called the Ohio Fellows.
What a grand experiment we were. How subversive the founders of the Ohio Fellows Program were. How cunning. There, nested in the middle of a rather ordinary university, sat the most radical educational program ever conceived: a program based on a single question : How do you identify young people of extraordinary talent, unleash their talents, and prevent a four-year traditional college education from turning them into conformists who aim low and think small, who never learn to trust their own gifts, who never dare great things, who never take great risks, and who never become all that they could? There has been nothing like it before or since.
Les Rollins was the only genuine power broker I have ever known. His proteges and acolytes spanned the globe – powerful and famous people, world-recognized leaders, brilliant artists, geniuses of all kinds – an enormous network that he brought to bear on unsuspecting young billiard balls like you and me for the sole purpose of shaking us loose and changing our lives. I am in awe to this day of the selflessness and purity of his chosen mission, and how many he enlisted in that vast conspiracy to form young minds into people who could and would make a difference in whatever field of endeavor they chose in life.
Les Rollins and Vern Alden and the Ohio Fellows changed me forever. I have tried to repay that debt by doing for others what they did for me — looking for and nurturing young talent, carefully helping it blossom, and reaping the deep satisfaction of seeing its promise fulfilled. It is my way of keeping the Ohio Fellows alive forever. I hope you do the same.
Have a great weekend.
November 19, 2002
Heartiest greetings to you and the other Ohio, Cutler and Business Fellows who are gathering at Ohio University this weekend. I regret that my firm’s move to new headquarters after 180 years at 59 Wall Street necessitates that I remain in the city. I would have enjoyed being with you as you ponder the meaning and value of your experience as Fellows.
As you have already recognized by your creation of the Rollins Reading Room, it is impossible to address these subjects without acknowledging the formative influence of that great Master Sergeant and Teacher, J. Leslie Rollins. Ironically, so far as I could ever see the Dean did not spend his own time in libraries or otherwise reading books, and you will look in vain for a collection of essays or a seminal speech recording his particular “system of beliefs.” Nonetheless, I believe Dean Rollins was a true intellectual, in that he believed deeply that ideas matter. He would also have agreed with the old adage that institutions fail when good men fail to act. His message was simple: “Go forth; act on your convictions, make a difference.”
Because he also believed there were “special people” who could do particular good in the world because of their superior gifts of leadership and creativity, Les was sometimes accused of being an elitist. I believe nothing could be further from his real view, which is close to the biblical injunction that “from whom much is given, much is demanded.”
I have often wondered, as perhaps you have too, how best to honor the Dean’s legacy. For me the best way is for each of us to make an effort, as he did, to mentor as many young men and women as we can, and to pass on that at once enabling yet uncomfortable message: “Go forth. You have much to give, time is wasting, and you can make a difference.”
With best regards.
T. Michael Long
A few reflections on the Ohio Fellows Program and the reunion in November of 2002 . . .
I want to tell all of you who attended the reunion last November how much I enjoyed getting together with you all and sharing our lives and stories. The OFP continues to be perhaps the single most salient item in my educational background. Further, I think that the concept of the OFP is so precious that it is worth preserving and continuing . . . if only we can figure out how.
That is not going to be easy, as most of the senior university types who attended the reunion still didn't seem to understand what the program actually was or what made it so special. This was particularly noticeable during my discussion group. One of the people in my discussion group was with one of the other "leadership" programs -- a very sincere guy who obviously wants to help deserving students and, through them, make a contribution to the world. But I couldn't seem to get through to him that the connection between the OFP and academic honors was indirect to say the least. There was nothing formally demanded of the Fellows. No one ever flunked out of the OFP, and no one was ever asked to leave. The program had very little to do with academics . . . in fact it was rather an effort to provide non-academic mentors for exceptionally promising people in an effort to resolve the problem that, in college, all the mentors are academics.
Being an Ohio Fellow was not something one "achieved"; it was rather a recognition of what one "is." It was not about working to become a good leader -- it was more about learning to understand, cope with, and manage the reality of being who you are. Being tapped for program was the intellectual equivalent to being given a license to kill.
It seems to me that the current programs are asking too much back from the students. They want them to be excellent scholars, active on campus, active off campus, etc., etc. That misses the point of finding those people who will "one day"be a force to be reckoned with. Such people are often "lopsided" -- their passions are what drives them; not the approval of "authorities"and often not even the approval of their own peer group. The original description for the Ohio Plan states that "if there is a young Albert Einstein or Robert Frost on campus and we can't find them and help them, then we will have failed." I don't believe that either of these great men would have qualified for the kind of leadership/scholarship program being run by O.U. The point of a program like the OFP was to identify those unusual individuals who we think will make a difference in the world and to provide them with the right kind of high powered plant food to seize the imagination.
In the letter inviting me into The Ohio Plan (arguably one of the most important letters I have ever received), John Chandler said, "Our major concern from this moment forward is to make available to you a series of educational experiences designed to assist you in developing your own interests and abilities, particularly as they may be related to present or future leadership or service in public affairs." I was free to grow in any direction I wanted/needed. Nothing was asked of me other than that I grow. I didn't have to demonstrate anything to anyone. No one in my discussion group (other than a Fellow or two) seemed to understand what I meant. I rather felt as though I were speaking a language no one could understand.
It also is worth noting that it is much easier to run a scholarship program than an OFP. Not only easier, but safer, too. I am sure the university will be proud of any of the students we met in Athens. They were all intelligent, hard working, articulate, sincere, and eager to please. They are all good bets. They are all safe. Indeed, if there was any disappointment on my part, it was not finding someone in the group who was more aggressive, critical, and in-your-face about his needs, values, or goals.
Of course it is possible that the most promising individuals no longer find the university setting stimulating and relevant. But, that's the problem we are trying to solve, isn't it?
If any of us wanted to re-create that radical, enriching experience we call the OFP, I'd be interested in their thoughts on how and where they think such a thing could be done and what essential ingredients would be needed.
Dear Dr. Alden,
It is not clear to me whether I will be able to visit Athens in November, as family/health issues may intervene; I will certainly do what I can to attend the reunion.
In any event, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for providing what is undoubtedly the single most important feature of my formal education: the Ohio Fellows Program.
I know there is an effort under way to honor Les Rollins. It is certainly fitting we do that. But it is clear to me that the key elements to the success of the program were all provided by you: the concept for the program (a tip of the hat here to Bob Greenleaf and Les Rollins . . . and even John Gardner), the selection of the right individuals needed to bring it about, and the necessary encouragement and ongoing support that sustained the program were all from you.
As you will remember, everyone hated us. The student body thought of us as a bunch of outrageous elitists (they were not entirely wrong); the faculty disliked the program as it seemed to be some sort of acknowledgment that the usual, formal, academic course of study was somehow ineffective or incomplete (they were right, too, but shame on them). Yet few people understood as well as you that these factors contributed to the success of the program. Because we functioned as a “fringe” group— somewhat unknown and underground—those factors provided much of the identity and cohesion that made the program work. Had it not been for you, your formal (and informal) support, and your clear efforts to keep the arrows out of our backs, we would not have survived past the first year.
Personally speaking, the Ohio Fellows program provided me with a number of seminal and life-altering experiences. Included in that set of unique and remarkable experiences is perhaps the single most important event of my life: the meeting with Huston Smith. Now in his eighties, Dr. Smith continues to be the dean of comparative religion in America and was the subject of a multi-part Bill Moyers series on PBS a few years ago. I first met him in one of those remarkable private meetings between the Fellows and distinguished visitors to campus. Huston and I are still good friends.
The program, and the remarkable group of people who ran and who filled it constitute the most interesting, diverse, amusing, annoying, infuriating, and stimulating group with which I have ever been associated. My receipt of the “George von Peterffy” award for “distinguished contribution to the Ohio Fellows Program” is still at the top the meager list of awards and accolades I have collected in my life.
But, again, it was you who conceived of the program and had the insight and courage to make it happen. Les Rollins once said to me: “Anyone can make a decision if given the facts. The important thing is to be able to make a decision in spite of the facts.” That’s leadership; and the value of commitment to a worthy idea, regardless of its popularity or difficulty, is one of the lifelong lessons I learned from you.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Back Row: Randy Evans, Joyce Wuerth, Craig Stafford, Bob Wuerth Frank Zammataro, Tom Hodson, Tom Queisser, John Chandler, Frank Bordonaro, Sally Bordonaro.
Front Row: Carl Sandberg, Unknown Fellow, Les Rollins, Eddie Rollins, Mike Major, Jane Major, Marshal Spradling, Jeff Heckman, Unknown Fellow, Unknown Fellow, Marry Lou Carrington, Clem Pearce, Unknown Fellow, Ralph Haberfeld.
Bottom Right: Terry and Berta Moore.