Ohio Today

Winter 2014 For alumni & friends of Ohio University
Photo Caption

During an indoor running event in December, Bill Benson, BSCO ’47, talks with Abe Bernstein, a recent cancer survivor and fellow senior runner still racing in his 70s. Benson is the oldest member of the Greater Long Island Running Club, where he is cheered on by other members at events. "At one time I was the only 80-year-old man," Benson says. "Now we have 18 that are 80 years or older."

Photo by Andy Spear.

By Ellee Prince

In 1940, Ohio University student Bill Benson, BSCO ’47, enrolled in his first college track course. With no previous experience, he was shocked when the coach led them to the outdoor track and instructed them to run a mile. With a mixture of nerves, surprise and determination to simply complete a task he had never attempted before, Benson pushed his young body forward, outpaced his classmates and earned his first race win.  

Despite his initial success on the Ohio University track team, after graduating, Benson shifted his focus to a career and family. But at 60 years old, when most people slow down or even stop, he laced up a pair of running shoes and returned to the rhythm he’d known so long before.

“I had a little book that I had gotten. It had a regular schedule printed out,” he says, explaining one of his first goals as an older runner. “I could remember how proud I was when I ran around the little lake at our park — a whole mile without stopping.”

Photo Caption

94-year-old Ohio University College of Business alumnus Bill Benson shows off "National Champion" badges that he won during past races. Benson regularly competes in running events hosted by the Greater Long Island Running Club in New York. He completed a marathon in his 60s and set American and world records in his 80s. He hopes to break an indoor record for his current age group in the near future. After running in a race, his favorite reward is a mug of root beer.

Photo by Andy Spear.

And he just kept going — marking one milestone after another throughout the years, including his 94th birthday last June.

For the past 34 years, he has competed in hundreds of running events — including the Long Island Marathon at age 63, finishing in three hours and 59 minutes. He earned records along the way too: The 5th Avenue Mile in Manhattan, N.Y., where he beat the outdoor track world record when he finished at 14 minutes and 46 seconds; and at age 85, he set an American and world record for the fastest mile, clocking in at nine minutes and 18 seconds.

“(I) don’t do it just for records. I just do it because it’s good for me. I enjoy it,” Benson laughs. “People ask me (how I do it) all the time. I don’t have the faintest idea how I even lived to be 94.”

He does know, however, that goals are vital in his running life. For more than 30 years, Benson has maintained a daily log for running. Now, it’s filled with more than 19,500 carefully tracked miles.

He also aims for a run every day, riding the exercise bike in his basement during bad weather. And he has been a member of the Greater Long Island Running Club for decades, currently the only member in the 90s age bracket, where he connects and competes with others on a regular basis.

Benson’s family often attends the club’s track meets, asked by others if they are related to “the old guy that runs.” They cheer him on, while other members join in a standing ovation at the end. “They all hang out at the finish line to celebrate that I made it — I didn’t die,” he laughs.

As he tallied his total races last year, adding it to the more than 900 lifetime total, he wondered about one future goal: “Will I live long enough to get a thousand — who knows?” he says. “You always have that pushing you along — the idea that you can do it.

“I never really expected to break records. I just like to run.”

Be like Bill:

  • Be active every day
  • Keep track of your progress
  • Be a part of a community
  • Aim for benchmarks, like competitions, to drive you forward
  • Have fun!

The Greater Long Island Running Club will hold the Bill Benson Birthday Run June 22 at Hendrickson Park in Benson’s hometown of Valley Stream, N.Y. For details, contact (516) 349-7646 or visit glirc.org.

Photo Caption

Ohio University alumnus Bill Benson crosses the finish line at the Heart and Sole 5k Run July 21 in Plainview, N.Y. Nassau County Legislator Rose Marie Walker holds the finish line banner for Benson, though he was not the first to cross. "We are so impressed with Bill's dedication and determination that we wanted to recognize him as a 'winner' in his own right," said Greater Long Island Running Club President Mike Polansky. Benson has been a member of the running club for more than two decades and, according to Polansky, he always crosses the finish line with a big smile.

Photo provided by Greater Long Island Running Club President Mike Polansky.

Photo Caption

During a summer hike with her husband, Stepfanie Romine (BA ’03 and BSJ ’03) holds firefly pose atop Lookout Mountain in North Carolina. The arm-balance pose is called “tittibasana” in Sanskrit and is from the second series of Ashtanga yoga.

Photo by Sam Klontz.

Small changes for health

By Stepfanie Romine

Back in my Ohio University days, my only form of exercise was climbing Jeff Hill to head to The Post or sprinting up the wooden steps between South and College greens. A balanced meal was one that contained more than one food group. Somehow I managed to evade the Freshman 15 but then gained more than twice that during my first two years in the real world.

Not only did I lose the weight — and have kept it off — but, in 2008, my passion for healthy living helped me land my dream job as an editorial director at SparkPeople.com, a leading diet, fitness and healthy living online community with more than 15 million members. What makes the site so popular is what helped me lose the last 10 pounds, train for multiple half marathons, and commit to yoga teacher training (and now a health coach certification): We believe that healthy living is about living. To lose weight and keep it off, you have to rethink your approach. Ditch the diets and make a lifestyle change based on healthy habits you can continue.

With a lifestyle change, you make the rules. You make one healthy decision, then another. You set one goal, such as losing 10 pounds or cutting out caffeine after breakfast, then you set another. You're in control, you're succeeding, and you're building habits you can stick with for life.

To see real changes in your health, you don't live an ascetic existence. Sometimes the easiest choices make a difference. Here are a few worth trying.

Drink a cup of water: Our bodies are up to 70 percent water, and being even slightly dehydrated can affect your well-being. Thirst is often mistaken for hunger, and dehydration is a common culprit of headaches and fatigue. Before reaching for food, ibuprofen or caffeine, drink a cup of water and see how you feel.

Measure your portions: Between oversize restaurant portions and super-size dinner plates at home, we're accustomed to being overserved — and thus we overeat. Learn to identify a serving size (SparkPeople.com has a great slideshow with visual cues) so you know how much to eat at each meal. For example, a serving of meat (3 ounces cooked) should be about the size and thickness of a deck of cards.

Give up one soda a day: If you're a regular soda drinker, consider eliminating just one 20-ounce bottle each day. The calories offer no real nutrition, and that can add up to an extra 26 pounds a year (or 250 calories a day). Replace it with diet soda or, better yet, water.

Add strength training to your workouts: Muscle burns calories even when our bodies are at rest, and women in particular lose about a half pound of metabolism-boosting muscle each year after age 30. In addition, weight-bearing exercises can help bones stay strong as we age.

Take a 10-minute walk: Exercise in short bursts counts, and the 10-minute workout is a hallmark of the SparkPeople program. Working out even at a moderate pace releases feel-good endorphins and can give you the energy you need to pass up that afternoon cup of coffee or sugary snack.

Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep has been linked to increased carb consumption and overeating, and not getting enough shut-eye can lead to an increase in hormones that can hinder metabolism. Burning the candle at both ends might have been a necessity during finals week, but adults need at least seven hours a night — and making up for it on weekends doesn't work.

Start with one of these healthy habits today, and see where it leads you. Today I'm happier and healthier than ever, and it's because I take life one goal at a time.

Stepfanie Romine, BA ’03 and BSJ '03, is an editor, author and Ashtanga yoga teacher living in the mountains of western North Carolina. Her second book, “The Spark Solution:  A Complete Two-Week Diet Program to Fast-Track Weight Loss and Total Body Health,” was recently named one of the "best diets" by U.S. News and World Report.

Photo Caption

Brooks Lowe, BSC '09, proposes to Angie Haas, BSED '09, during a trip to Ohio University. The couple met as sophomores and will be married in December.

Photo courtesy of Brooks Lowe and Angie Haas.

By Chealsia Smedley
Illustration by Parko Polo

Bobcats long ago tied the knot right in the center of College Green. The wind blew white trains of fabric along the brick walkway, as love was consecrated amid shuffling students.

Over time, this easy, breezy outdoor wedding was swapped out for the creatively quirky Bobcat wedding. Today’s couples find ways to honor alma mater through thoughtfully chosen locations and the use of campus memorabilia, while also finding inspiration in their own college love stories. Ohio Today spoke to a few wedding champions who shared their love for each other — and OHIO — on their special day.

No lone Bobcats

Though the bobcat is a solitary animal, Ohio University alumni travel in packs — especially during wedding season. Cindy Grimes Saunders, BSED ’03, and James Saunders, BSSE ’99, understood the importance of a Bobcat-heavy event.

From the guest list to the wedding party, from the DJ to the photographer, their wedding was full of Bobcat cheer. The couple even snared a surprise visit from an iconic friend.

“James and I are both goofy and like to joke around, and we wanted our wedding to reflect our personalities,” Cindy says. “We didn’t want a traditional ceremony. Instead, we wanted something fun that our guests would never forget.

“That’s where Rufus came in.”

Literally. As the guests awaited the couple’s arrival, they were surprised to find the bride with another man. Cindy walked through the door, arm in arm with Rufus, as her new husband followed behind. He tapped Rufus on the shoulder and claimed his bride.

Julie Mann, BBA ’02, in Key West, Fla., also brought Rufus to her reception. She borrowed an inflatable Rufus from the Ohio University Alumni Association Greater Charlotte Chapter Network for her wedding. “It was important to me to just have a piece of OU at the wedding,” says Julie. “I would have settled for a flag —but the blowup Rufus is just so fun.”

Photo Caption

Galbreath Chapel celebrated its reopening after a renovation December 2013. Here, a wedding party exits the chapel after a ceremony in 1981.

Photo from the Ohio University Alumni Association Facebook page.

To book the real Rufus for your wedding click here to fill out a short request form.

Where the heart is

Settling on the ideal wedding setting is one of the biggest decisions in wedding planning. In the balance of hometowns, college towns and dream destinations, a couple scours to find a significant, accessible location.

An Ohio University wedding tips the scales just right. Couples can say their vows at the newly renovated Galbreath Chapel, a landmark built by a husband in 1957 to remember his wife, or rent out Walter Hall Rotunda, and walk down the aisle as light streams in through the magnificent windows.

At the regional campuses, couples have tied the knot at the Eastern Campus gymnasium and the Learning Commons at the Chillicothe Campus. What could be more romantic than the historical John Bright No. 2 Covered Bridge at Lancaster Campus? Receptions can take place anywhere from the quaint Dairy Barn Arts Center to Baker University Center at the heart of the Athens campus.

“For us, getting married in Athens was a no-brainer,” says Brooke Sheppard Megenhardt, BSC ’07. Both she and her husband, Jesse Megenhardt, BSIT ’07, grew up near Athens and chose to marry at Richland United Methodist Church in Athens and host their reception at Baker University Center ballroom.

As a bonus for their guests, they wed during Ohio Brew Week, a week-long summer festival celebrating Ohio’s craft beers. Their lively reception turned into an uptown after-party that came to an end over orders of calzones at D.P. Dough.

I Love Y-OU

Ron Dravenstott, BSIS ’09 and MS ’12, and Kelley Marling Dravenstott, BSED ’09, set the bar high with their “Best of Athens” themed wedding that included Passion Works flowers, food from Court Street vendors and tables named after their favorite spots on campus.

Photo Caption

The tables at the wedding of Ron Dravenstott, BSIS ’09 and MS ’12, and Kelley Marling Dravenstott, BSED ’09, displayed their favorite Athens spots, including Lucky's on Court Street.

Photo courtesy of the Dravenstotts.

“When Ron and I were trying to plan for our reception food, we both kept thinking of all our favorite Athens foods, and how much we would rather eat pizza from Courtside or a BLT from Jimmy John’s instead of having a typical formal dinner,” Kelley says. “From there, I wanted to make sure we incorporated parts of Athens and OU that are so loved by students, alumni and faculty.”

Freshman year, Kelley and Ron became fast friends through their involvement in the Marching 110, and during their graduate studies at Ohio University, Ron popped the question under the cherry blossoms.

These two relationship benchmarks were commemorated in their wedding: The bridal party walked down the aisle to the Marching 110 song “Stand Up and Cheer,” and guests danced the night away among pink and white cherry blossoms as the DJ played a music mix including Marching 110 songs.

Photo Caption

Kenneth Coe, BSED ’50 and MED ’58, and Faye Hoobler Coe, BSED ’52, enjoyed their time at Ohio University. Faye loved the beautiful campus, being a member of Sigma Kappa and the Homecoming festivities. She lived in Sloane Cottage, which is now Copeland Hall, across from Chubb Hall, which formerly housed the library. Kenneth, who was stationed at Pearl Harbor during World War II, was involved in military activities while attending. Both became educators after graduation. They have been married 64 years.

Photo courtesy of the Coes.

I thee wed:
Real love for 64 years

By Kandlyn Collins

“I do.” Two words that should bind us for life.

But how often do they? (We’re looking at you, Kim Kardashian.)

A quick skim of Ohio Today’s “class notes” section shows multiple alumni couples who have managed to stay together for more than six decades. Is the secret to their bliss to be found in their campus years together? One pair, Kenneth Coe, BSED ’50 and MED ’58, and Faye Hoobler Coe, BSED ’52, have been married for 64 years. They have learned, lived and worked together across the decades and still find it easy to love each other. Ohio Today interviewed Faye, and she dispensed some advice on how to maintain wedded bliss for more than half a century.

Emphasize a shared background, ideals

The Coes grew up in Wintersville, Ohio, and both attended Ohio University during the turbulent time of World War II. Classmates in high school, friends in college and life partners soon after that, their life together has flourished largely because of their shared experiences. Kenneth, a WWII veteran and retired principal, and Faye, a retired kindergarten teacher, wed in 1949.

Faye says their common background led to a marriage with no major disagreements. They live by a similar philosophy of compromise, hard work and enjoying life while they can. When it came to problems, the best advice Faye had? “Talk them over.”

To the Coes, the solution was, and is, simple: communication, communication, communication!

Provide a united front

With two children, a boy and a girl, the Coes had their fair share of shenanigans in their household. But one of the most important lessons they learned was to put up a united front when it came to parenting.

“We pretty much agreed on things when raising children,” Faye says.

While that is not to say that parents must agree on everything, the Coes learned that being steadfast in their decisions not only made parenting easier, but also earned their children’s respect.

Make time for each other

At 84 and 88, the Coes find it more difficult to get out and do the things they love to do. But in earlier years, they made a great effort to make sure to have fun with each other and their children.

“We tried to vacation every summer, took a cruise 20 years ago, went to the beaches,” Faye says. “We would read a lot of magazines that sounded good together.”

When not vacationing, the Coes played bridge and pinochle together and became members of their local clubs.

Stay in touch with friends

It’s not too tough to stay in touch with fellow alumni, and Faye says that keeping tabs with friends, both old and new, can keep a marriage new and exciting. To celebrate their 50th anniversary, they held a large dinner party for their friends and family. For their 60th, they hosted a smaller dinner party.

Keep your personal life out of work

The Coes worked together for decades at the same high school: she as a teacher and later substitute, and Kenneth as a principal for Chillicothe City Schools. “(It) was not fun working with him in the school. People would think I would have extra privileges,” Faye says.

While their situation was unique, Faye thinks all couples can benefit from maintaining a professional attitude at work.

Advice to newly married couples

According to Faye, many young couples consider divorce too soon when faced with obstacles. “Don’t give up,” she says. When you’ve found the right partner, the marriage is worth the effort. “It is possible to work things out.”

Photo Caption

For more than 64 years, Kenneth Coe, BSED ’50 and MED ’58, and Faye Hoobler Coe, BSED ’52, have enjoyed married life, sharing a family life full of travel, entertaining and hobbies such as bridge and pinochle while playing in their local clubs.

Photo courtesy of the Coes.

By Lindsey Burrows

Tami Boehmer, BSJ ’87, is, first and foremost, a survivor and a prime example of the resilience of the human spirit. But she’d rather tell you a dozen other amazing stories before her own.

Just look to her award-winning blog or her book, “From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odds,” for confirmation. And yet, she would never be in a position to share such heart-wrenching and inspiring tales if it weren’t for a plot twist in her own life.

The year is 2002, and there is a lump in Tami Boehmer’s right breast. At only 38 years old, she is too young to even begin to think about mammograms. She just had a daughter a few years earlier, after all. But there it is — stage II breast cancer — ignorant of the odds.

So began a nightmare in search of a happy ending: A lump removed. Radiation beams blasted. Chemotherapy drugs piped into veins … Loved ones joined in prayers of hope.

She got involved with the Pink Ribbon Girls, a support group for young women with breast cancer in Cincinnati, and even the widely known Susan G. Komen organization for a spell.

“I was always willing to talk to anybody,” says Boehmer. “I ended up learning a lot about breast cancer. Unfortunately, it’s a lot more aggressive in young women. I saw a lot of young women die.”

But after going through all the right motions, Boehmer recovered. It was a joyous time. Five cancer-free years and two birthdays a day apart — her husband’s 50th and her daughter’s ninth. Unfortunately, Boehmer and her family were about to take another blow.

A mysterious swelling in her right armpit turned out to be a recurrence.

“At this time, I was working at a large hospital in Cincinnati,” says Boehmer, who was a health-care public relations specialist. “I remember that day I went down to get my scans, and I saw the scan report.

“I just broke down. I saw that it had spread to my liver and to lymph nodes and my chest. It was devastating.”

Rather than giving in to despair, Boehmer steeled herself for a fight. She sought out oncologists and second opinions. One doctor in Texas delivered a particularly tough prognosis: “You could have two years or 20 years, but you’re definitely going to die from breast cancer.”

On the way back to Ohio, Tami Boehmer cried and cried. Slowly, her sadness turned to indignation, and then, resolve. She thought about her cancer-stricken friend who was given six months to live seven years ago. She thought about the books by surgeon Bernie Siegel she read during her first bout of cancer and his belief that a doctor should avoid death sentences lest they become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Something clicked: “I thought, ‘What does she know? She doesn’t know me! How does she know how long I have to live?’”

So, she would go through the motions again: surgery, radiation, chemo. But this time, she would try adding something new — she decided to write a book. But Boehmer didn’t want to write one about herself. It was still so early in her journey. What did she have to say?

She started a blog to solicit stories of survivors, and the stories, at first a trickle, soon began to pour in. Stories of devastation and resilience, purgatory and rebirth. Stories of cancer-free individuals who were originally given days to live. Though it’s difficult to pinpoint characteristics that all survivors shared, some common threads started to emerge.

  • Survivors who beat the odds are very perseverant and proactive in their health care.
  • They give back to others.
  • They are spiritual, whether in a conventional way or not.
  • They don’t give up, no matter what.

One story in her next book follows a man named Mark Williams in Portland. After enduring an especially rough childhood, he was hit with stage IV melanoma in his adulthood. His oncologist basically told him he was a dead man walking. Despite it all — cancer, death sentences, being surrounded by people who gave up hope — he outlived every prediction and is still alive today.

Boehmer reflects fondly: “He always says, ‘Don’t stop believing.’ That’s his mantra.”

Many of the advanced cancer blogs before Boehmer’s had stopped believing. They were filled with anger and frustration and, naturally, ever-looming death.

“I wanted to give another perspective,” says Boehmer. “It’s not always positive — I share all kinds of stuff. I still have cancer in my body, and I still go to a lot of different treatments. I think being real is important. It’s not an easy road. But my message is hope. There is hope no matter what, and don’t let anyone take that away from you.”

Friends and alumni can follow Tami’s story at http://www.tamiboehmer.com/.

Photo Caption

Tami Greenfield Boehmer, BSJ ’87, seeks out stories of resilience and hope for her award-winning blog, Miracle Survivors, and her first book, "From Incurable to Incredible," proving that people stricken with cancer don't just have to survive — they can thrive.

Photo by Samantha Grier, BS '05.

By Chealsia Smedley

“I think anyone can sing — they just have to find their voice,” says New York-based voice coach Mary Rodgers, BFA ’75.

Well, I can’t sing. Singing in the shower is one thing, but in the midst of beautifully pitched songbird voices, my shaky sounds drop to raspy whispers, and I often resort to emphatic lip-synching. I know I’m not alone. If you’re reading this article, you probably muffle up at the thought of singing in front of people too.

According to Rodgers, stifled belting and church mouse singing have a solution. She specializes in teaching dancers (non-singers) vocal technique so they can transition into musical theater. After speaking to Rodgers, I learned a few ways that a non-singer can find a voice and hide no more.

Breathe to sing

It’s all about making sure you know how to breathe correctly, so you’re singing on your breath and not using your throat,” says Rodgers.

She explained that to sing, the voice needs to stay on time with the breath by keeping the forward momentum of an exhale, so it doesn’t fall into the throat. This is possible through the diaphragm. With each inhale, the lungs fill up with air as the diaphragm drops into the abdominals; with the exhale, the diaphragm sends up a strong breath that brings the vocal chords together and produces sound.

Exercise your breath

The diaphragm is made up of muscles, and even these muscles need to be strengthened and exercised. Building up a strong diaphragm and a bigger lung capacity make the difference between a weak trembling note and the booming sounds of bravado.

One exercise that Rodgers recommends is a part of Carl Stough’s (founder of the Stough Institute of Breathing Coordination) approach to re-coordinating the body’s muscles through breathing.

The exercise can be done standing or lying on the floor, and involves inhaling and slowly counting to 10 while exhaling. “The reason you count is because the vocal chords need to come together with a certain amount of air, whether you’re speaking or singing,” says Rodgers. “By counting, you’re sending up the breath that is similar to what you need to sing.”

Each time you run out of breath, inhale and start again. By repeating sets of 10 you will discover how strong your breath is, while also strengthening that breath and building stamina. The overall goal is to repeat sets of 10 where you can produce strong sound with little to no strain, using as little energy as possible.

Take voice lessons

It’s never too late to learn something new. “Try to find a voice teacher that you can connect with,” says Rodgers. “Talk to them about what you want to do and how long it’s going to take. You always need someone checking up on what you’re doing.”

A voice teacher will provide guidance and motivation on the journey to finding your voice. In a first class with a new student, Rodgers will talk to a person about his or her goals, as well as breathing and vocal technique; record the student performing breathing and vocalizing exercises; and attempt to understand the person’s voice.

Just do it

Stop hiding your voice, and start singing. If you have to sit in your room alone first, do it. But then, go out and practice singing in front of other people.

“I think if someone wants to sing, they should do it,” says Rodgers. “They should take a class, join a choir, or do karaoke if that’s their thing.”

Photo Caption

Rob Foehl, BBA ’91, took his Bobcat pride to “the end of the world,” when he traveled to Antarctica for a two-week vacation in December. He spent six days on the continent; the rest of the trip involved travel to and from his destination. “Once you get to the southernmost tip of South America, it takes two days on a ship to arrive at the Antarctic peninsula,” Foehl wrote. “It was a vast landscape with barely a trace of human existence. I spent most of my time hiking, kayaking and (of course) viewing wildlife (saw three types of penguins, three types of whales, three types of seals and a variety of birds).”

Photo courtesy of Rob Foehl.

By Corinne Colbert, BSJ ’87, MA ’93

So you have an OHIO T-shirt. You have the green-and-white license plate holder and an Attack Cat vinyl decal on your windshield. Maybe you belong to one of the many Ohio University groups on Facebook or LinkedIn. You may even come back to campus for Homecoming regularly. Think that’s all there is to being an alumnus?

You’ve just scratched the surface of the alumni experience. If you’re ready to join the ranks of the truly dedicated Ohio University fans, here are some ways to do it.

1. Make your smartphone Stand Up and Cheer. Replace that boring default ringtone on your smartphones with a track from the Marching 110. For 99 cents, you can get “Ain’t Been Good,” “Ohio Alma Mater” or “Stand Up and Cheer” on iTunes. Then follow these simple directions to create a custom ringtone from the track. Load it onto your phone and voila! Every call can take you back to campus. (Warning: You may be swamped by fellow Bobcats who want to know how you did it.)

2. Connect on social media. If you want to know what today’s students are up to, go where they are: Twitter, Tumblr and other apps designed for mobile devices. (More than 1.5 million people follow freshman Logan Paul’s six-second videos about campus life on Vine.) Keep up with #BobcatNation on Twitter, and watch for Tumblr posts tagged #OU Oh Yeah. Better yet, tag your own posts about your campus experience!

3. Organize your own class reunion. As sophomores, Martha Polinsky and her friends made a joke about reuniting in Athens on Flag Day in 2000. But they actually did it — and have returned every summer since. “The number attending varies — that first year, we had tons,” says Polinsky, AB ’87. “The West Coast contingent doesn’t make it every year.” They have timed some reunions to coincide with events such as Boogie on the Bricks. If you’d like to get your gang together, visit Athens for On the Green Weekend May 30–June 1. Need to stick closer to home? Organize something in your area for OUr Day in April.

4. Let your flag fly. Next time you go on vacation, stuff an OHIO flag in your luggage. Find an interesting or picturesque spot, unfurl the flag and have someone take your picture holding the flag. E-mail it to ohiotoday@ohio.edu so we can print it and show everybody where your Ohio University degree has taken you!

5. Make yourself at home. Aaron Romero, BSRS ’92 and MSPE ’95, and his wife, Jennifer, BA ’07, have imbued their home with the Bobcat spirit. Their basement’s ceiling and built-in shelves are made from the original wooden flooring of the Convocation Center, purchased at auction. The walls are covered with OHIO memorabilia from Aaron’s family — he is one of 14 Romeros to graduate from Ohio University — and his years with the Marching 110, as well as posters and jerseys from various Bobcat teams. Visitors stay in a guest room designed to evoke a residence hall room (number 110, of course). “When things are remodeled around campus, we try to salvage what we can so that history is not lost,” says Jennifer, who works in disability services on the Athens campus. If you live too far from Athens to take advantage of university surplus, you can always order stuff from the Bobcat Store to give your home a touch of the Green and White.

Photo Caption

Bobcat reunion in California. Roomies from the class of 1973. Bob Cranston

Photo Caption

“My home is no more special than your home, my epiphanies no more profound than yours. This is crucial, because the urge to write, which very often originates in recollecting, is very different from the work of writing, which aims to interrogate that recollection.”

Photo of Joe and his father courtesy of Joe Bonomo.

Write your story, or a rememberer’s paradox

By Joe Bonomo

As a kid I remember recognizing that my family home wasn’t unique. When I’d play at Karl’s house or visit Mrs. Pollack’s for piano lessons in her basement, I’d feel overwhelmed by images of strangers in framed photos, by matchless odors and unfamiliar floor plans, and by the dawning knowledge that this house, too, has a family that stretches backwards through time, through parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, cousins, etc., and that this family might experience the same dynamics that mine does. I’d multiply this by the dozens of homes surrounding me, and I’d get dizzy. (And melancholy, before I knew the word.) It seemed impossible that the intensity of family life in my house might be replicated in every house on the street, block, town, county, state, country, continent...

I felt similarly mystified when, as a dutiful Catholic, I began taking note of the synagogue down the block, the “other” Christian church nestled in the woods across the street, the simple white row house in downtown Washington, D.C., with the word “Baptist” hand-painted over the door, the peculiar people on TV on the other side of the world, chanting, praying. None of them were doing what I was doing on Sunday mornings: They were elsewhere, their homes of worship blessed, special, mattering as intensely as mine somehow.

My impulse to write autobiographically is in steady quarrel with these childish discoveries and their blend of incredulity, dismay, and disappointment; a struggle between my ego and my ordinariness flares up each time I write an essay. My home is no more special than your home, my epiphanies no more profound than yours. This is crucial, because the urge to write, which very often originates in recollecting, is very different from the work of writing, which aims to interrogate that recollection. Such work often leads to disappointment and diminishing expectations, but also to surprise and discovery.

Having a story to tell is not the same as having an essay to write; while not anti-story by temperament, an essay is skeptical of the well-made story and its home comforts. A yarn that goes well in a bar or at a party—or to the dark ceiling at night or to the lone face in the mirror—is the essay’s gateway drug: beyond is the half-illumined mess of the intellect faced by the self-questioning “I,” the dreamy, less popular doppelgänger of the “I” at the party, that raconteur who had a crowd in thrall. An essay is begun, and made to matter, when “I” returns home alone and tries to make sense of the story that his other “I” told: What does it mean? Why did I leave out [  ], [  ], and [  ]? What needs further exploration? What don’t I remember, and why not make a story out of that?

Before an essayist embarks on the journey from “I remember” to “I write,” he accepts a paradox: To get there I must lose my way. An essay that knows its own ending when it begins is less an essay than an exercise in wish fulfillment. Shifting memories play a crucial role: how I recall last week or the summer when I was ten affects the persona I wish to embody today, the shading I want (even need) as I essay myself as subject matter. Remembering something accepts black holes and dropouts, illogic and broken chronology; a story fills up the holes, links them, covers them over with plot and scene. We recall in ruins, and there are as many ways to preserve or renovate those ruins as there are writers.

Joe Bonomo, MA ’90 and PHD ’94, is a music columnist, a professor in the department of English at Northern Illinois University and a four-time "Notable Essay" selection in Best American Essays. He is the author of, among other books, “This Must Be Where My Obsession with Infinity Began” (essays) and “Sweat: The Story of the Fleshtones, America’s Garage Bands,” and the editor of “Conversations with Greil Marcus.” His work is available at www.nosuchthingaswas.com.

Photo Caption

“Before an essayist embarks on the journey from ‘I remember’ to ‘I write,’ he accepts a paradox: To get there I must lose my way.”

Photo of Joe Bonomo by Amy Newman.

This Winter 2014 Issue of Ohio Today Online was produced with the help of student writers employed this semester at Ohio University Advancement Communication and Marketing, as well as the support of alumni writers and photographers.

Contributors:

Joe Bonomo, MA ’90, PHD ’94
Lindsey Burrows, BSJ ’09
Corinne Colbert, BSJ ’87, MA ’93
Kandlyn Collins, BSJ ’14
Ellee Prince, BSJ ’14
Stepfanie Romine, BSJ ’03, BA ’03
Chealsia Smedley, BSJ ’14

Editor: Mariel Jungkunz, MS ’07
Designer: Sarah McDowell, BFA ’02
Executive Director of Development: Jennifer Shutt Bowie, BSJ ’94, MS ’99

Ohio Today wants to help.

We hope you've enjoyed this digital issue of Ohio Today, created to complement the print magazine mailed in fall and spring. Four digital issues a year will be e-mailed to all alumni with a valid e-mail address on file. Click here to update your e-mail address.

Also, with this digital edition, we're able to offer online-only subscriptions for alumni who would like to opt out of receiving Ohio Today in the mail. By printing fewer copies, we will reduce our consumption of paper, ink and other resources, making the magazine's environmental footprint that much smaller. To add your name to our online-only subscription list, visit us online and fill out a subscription form.

See you online.