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#48 – Why Ohio?

by | Oct 17, 2016

It wasn’t my idea to go to Ohio University. I grew up in Wheeling, West Virginia and always wanted to go to West Virginia University. But my high school girlfriend, Ann, had a different idea. She insisted I go to a more academic school.


Ohio University in Athens, Ohio is the ninth-oldest college in the country. It was established in 1804 and has an excellent academic rating. The Hocking River runs through the campus, and its nickname is “Harvard on the Hocking.” It is often confused with a larger school to the north that is mostly known for its football team and its inability to win the Rose Bowl. By happy coincidence, my mother had graduated from Ohio U and was thrilled I would consider attending. Many of my high school friends went to WVU, but no one went to Ohio. But to please my girlfriend and my mother, I decided to attend Ohio University.


Soon after I decided to go to Ohio, my father accepted a call to a church in Kenmore, New York, a suburb of Buffalo. My family moved to Kenmore the summer after I graduated from high school. So my girlfriend and her parents drove me to school in Athens. Soon after that, however, we broke up. I had no reason to go back to Wheeling. Kenmore was an 18-hour bus ride from Athens. I was stuck and unhappy at Ohio U.


During my senior year at Ohio, my family moved to San Mateo, California, a suburb of San Francisco. I was broke, with no car and no home. While I stayed in school at Ohio, I was a disinterested student and my academic record was undistinguished. My parents couldn’t come to my graduation, so I didn’t bother attending. Those were four lonely and painful years. I left Athens angry and bitter and told myself I would never go back to Ohio University.


The war in Vietnam was now in full force. After I graduated, I learned my draft number was under 100, so I was certain to be drafted. I enlisted in the Army and went to Officers Candidate School. After graduation I was sent to the 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea on the DMZ for 18 months. In Korea I drank beer and played billiards and ping pong while many of my OCS classmates were fighting in Vietnam.


My hatred for Ohio U and the 1960s was so strong that for many years whenever I listened to an “oldies-but–goodies” music station I would turn off the radio when a song came on from the ‘60s. I still have trouble listening to Scott McKenzie sing “Going to San Francisco.”


Years later when we moved to Cincinnati, Cynthia pestered me repeatedly to make the short drive over to Athens to see the school. I adamantly refused to even consider it. The bitterness remained. For years I regretted my decision to go to Ohio University. I had left and was never going back.


Now, it suddenly occurred to me that this might have been part of God’s plan. Why did I go to Ohio University? It seemed that the president of the university when I went there, Vern Alden, was now going to have a major impact on my life. Was this dumb luck or what?


“God causes everything to work together to the good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

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I did not tell Cynthia I had lost my job. I contacted Vern Alden. He was surprised to learn I was an Ohio University graduate, and he agreed to meet with me the following week.


(To be continued in “Dumb Luck or What?”)