Ohio Today

fall 2013 The Promise Lives Campaign Special Issue

Inspired OHIO: five stories of growing, changing and giving

Encounters: Visiting artists bring ideas, inspiration and new pathways to dance students. Footprints: New places are under construction and established spaces are spruced up because of gifts large and small. Gumption: One part 1804 Fund + two parts faculty innovation = cleaner streams and amazing art. Experience: When Ohio University invests in student scholarships, the world opens to new Bobcats. Partnership: Riding a horse to help a body heal is all in a day’s work at Ohio University’s Southern Campus.

These stories and more — all inspired by gifts to Ohio University — are inside this special issue of Ohio Today Online.

Moving forward: Guest artists prepare dance students for the future

College can feel like a bubble. The classroom, lab and studio prepare students to enter their careers; but that world remains distant. When students experience what Ohio University offers outside of the traditional learning space, they burst through the bubble and suddenly encounter the professional world on campus.

The College of Fine Arts’ Dance Division gives its students an opportunity each year to interact with, work for and learn from guest artists.

“It’s so important because Athens is a small town,” says Associate Director of the Dance Division Travis Gatling. “It’s important to bring in guest artists, practicing artists in the field, to give students that real experience.

Not only do I want them to have the experience of working with a professional, established choreographer, but I also want them to build networks.”

While some artists give lectures or residencies, others set choreography on students for the annual Winter Dance Concert.

In 2011, Paris- and New York-based choreographer Stephanie Batten Bland, who has worked with renowned choreographers such as Pina Bausch and Bill T. Jones, premiered “A Place of Sun” with an all-student cast.  The half-hour-long piece featured feathers and plastic bags. The dancers embodied birds searching for community in chaos.

“What comes across is this striking, scenic design with these dancers moving in a space she created. It’s a beautiful experience to watch. It’s almost like watching art. Literally watching a piece of art, hanging on a wall with motion,” says Gatling.

The following year, Sean Curran, who began his New York company in 1997, reset his original work “Quartet” on a cast of dance students.  

“If I had to characterize Sean, I would say he is a storyteller,” says Gatling. “He has a very diverse movement vocabulary that is influenced by many different things. Even though it’s not specific, the dancers take on a certain character. It’s storytelling in an abstract way.”

By diving into these choreographer’s worlds, students caught a glimpse of the diversity within the professional field of dance.

“The guest artists are not only choreographers, they are performers, they are administrators, and they are lecturers,” says Gatling. “It supports what we do here. What we as faculty offer enhances and supports that diversity and versatility they will need as dancers, as scholars and as artists.”
Click play and access the experiences of Ohio University senior Lauren Slivosky and Steven Evans, BFA ’13. Both worked with Bland and Curran during their visits.

— Chealsia Smedley

Building Blocks: Supporting Campus Facilities

In the Eye of the Beholder: Campus Beautification Efforts

You know it’s true: Nothing quite compares to the bricks, the hills and the pristine scenic beauty of the campuses at Ohio University. Ohio University prides itself on keeping its campus environment beautiful. Case in point: Emeriti Park on the Athens Campus. This four-acre park was dedicated in 2000 and is supported by the Emeriti Park Endowment. This serene oasis near Baker University Center is a tribute to distinguished faculty and staff who have enriched the lives of thousands of alumni.

“I gave to Emeriti Park because it was a wonderful addition to campus. Campus beautification efforts add so much to the university in terms of attractiveness.”

— Dr. Max Evans, BSED ’51

Books for the Ages: University Libraries

Looking to get your hands on a detailed reproduction of an original 17th-century English manuscript, the Trevelyon Miscellany of 1608?  You can at University Libraries — we know it as Alden Library — in the Robert E. and Jean R. Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections. This rare book is part of the libraries’ collection of more than 3 million volumes. Students, faculty and staff have access to the variety of rare books, manuscripts and other archival materials in the collection for research and teaching.

“We were looking for something that would be universal, that would help all students. We found that in the libraries.”

— Sydney Buck, BSCOM ’57, and Sonya Buck, AB ’58, donors to the Archives and Special Collections

Sports in Practice: Walter Fieldhouse

The structure next to Peden Stadium is rapidly taking shape. The 89,000-square-foot facility with a four-lane practice track will be used for classroom instruction, athletic practices, recreational activities and events. Some Russ College of Engineering and Technology students got a hard-hat tour from builder Turner Construction Company in October. The tour converted classroom learning into real-life practice for the students.

“I gave back for what the Walter Fieldhouse can do for recruiting students — not just football players, but other student-athletes and the general student population, too. I think the fieldhouse will be used in ways that haven’t been conceived of yet!”

— Kenneth Fisher, BSED ’61

Filling the Gaps: Heritage College, Dublin

Construction began in August on the new Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine in Dublin, Ohio. Some of Ohio’s urban areas, such as Columbus, have the greatest shortages of primary care physicians. The college is addressing this with a strategy to recruit from — and train in — central Ohio. Many physicians will stay to practice where they trained. The 50 students who will begin classes there next July will complete all four years of training in central Ohio. For the many Heritage College applicants from central Ohio, this new site offers the chance to train and eventually practice in the place they call “home”.

“We encourage alumni and friends to support the development of the campus in Dublin and our future physician workforce through scholarships. The cost of a medical school education should not deter a student’s passion.”
— William Burke, DO, FACOFP ’88, dean of Heritage College, Dublin, and Ohio University donor

— article by MaryKate McHugh

Another Man’s Treasure: Polluted Stream Provides Unique Inspiration for University Artist

Photo Caption

Ohio University Associate Professor of Art John Sabraw, adds color to ’Bijangos‘ – one of many paintings created with homemade pigments made from powdered iron sourced from local polluted waterways. An activist for sustainable arts, Sabraw has visited many of the region's streams and creeks contaminated with acid mine drainage left behind from the coal-mining industry. Creating these pieces is his way of reclaiming local waterways.

Image courtesy of the painting’s owner, Lee Cordray.

John Sabraw leans over a small, rust-colored pile of dust. Using a glass instrument and watching closely, he blends linseed oil into the iron powder. He adds more ingredients, deciding on color, until he has a new pigment for use in his next painting.

Sabraw, an associate professor of art at Ohio University, believes in creating art with less of an impact on the environment.

For years, he has purchased iron powder from as far away as Asia, but he now uses a local source as well. By doing so, he not only reduces the carbon footprint from processing and transporting the pigment, but also contributes to an effort to reclaim a community’s waterways from decades-old pollution.

Across campus, his collaborator Guy Riefler, associate professor of civil engineering, also focuses his work on restoring the local environment. Though, his tools are a little different.


He stands in Sunday Creek, near Millfield, Ohio, and submerges a 20-liter plastic jug downstream from an abandoned coalmine seep. Orange-tainted vegetation hangs over the water nearby. Along with a team of engineering graduate students, Riefler will take the jugs back to a lab and process them into clean water, extracting an iron sludge that can be used to produce artist-grade pigments.

In August 2011, Riefler received more than $25,000 from Ohio University’s 1804 Fund, for an unconventional project that would essentially transform pollution to paint.

From Collection to Canvas

Since 2011, Riefler and his team have collected and cleaned up water from Sunday Creek — a 27-mile tributary of the Hocking River.


It is one of many local streams and creeks that should be filled with water-life, but is choked by the acidic runoff from the coal mining industry that once economically governed the region.

When these mines were abandoned — most more than 35 years ago — they weren’t properly sealed, allowing rainwater in. The water reacted with the exposed elements inside the mine and began to flow into the region’s watershed, creating a water-quality issue that has not been solved.

“Acid mine drainage is the critical problem on Sunday Creek,” Riefler explains. “This support (from the 1804 Fund) allowed me to work on this for another year. We’ve made a lot of progress.”

Riefler has worked with the Sunday Creek Watershed Group and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to recover this area, which produces almost one million gallons of polluted water per day.

Riefler’s project also takes an innovative approach in the cleanup:  Collecting the acid mine drainage at the source, before it flows into the stream.

Once collected, a multi-step process extracts the iron from the deceptively clear water. The remaining iron is dried into powder, and the clean water is returned to the creek.

When first examining the sludge, Riefler thought there had to be a recipe that could transform it into artist-grade paint. “We had this dry sludge which was clearly good at staining things,” Riefler says. “But (my team and I) didn’t know how to tell whether it was good pigment or not.”

After many unsuccessful attempts, he realized the method was more qualitative — something only an experienced painter could determine. That’s when he found Sabraw.

"You have to get the elements to agree with each other,” Sabraw explains. “It’s more of an art form rather than a science.” The paints have a finer quality and flow better than traditional paint, allowing him more freedom when exploring layers and textures. And the same pollution that taints the creeks and streams with oranges, reds, or silver-white, also helps determine the unique color of each pigment. (continued)

Toxic Art for the Future

Using these pigments, Sabraw produced the Chroma series — a collection of paintings that heighten the distinctive aspects of working with pollution-based paints. The abstract, labor-intensive works are created in multiple layers, sometimes with paint added by individual drops. With them, he pushed the limits of what the pigments could do and what he could control. Once dry, the paintings reveal distinct and unforeseen interactions in each piece. Some develop into what looks like a far-off view of a distant solar system. Others resemble a microscopic view of a single cell. No two are similar.

The sustainably sourced and dramatic series has attracted national attention. The Smithsonian’s July 2013 blog features Riefler and Sabraw’s collaboration and displays multiple images of Sabraw’s work. The Huffington Post and The Washington Post followed with pieces on this unique partnership. 

Despite the popular media attention, these types of small-scale projects are often overlooked by more conventional support. Due to the low initial impact of the research, the National Science Foundation wouldn’t even consider funding the project, Riefler explains. Yet the 1804 Fund, which is almost as old as the pollution in these streams, supports this kind of faculty collaboration and creativity. Throughout the Fund’s 32-year history, more than $15 million has been awarded to over 600 projects, including Riefler and Sabraw’s.

“The relationship with John has really grown in ways I never expected,” Riefler says. “The works that he’s done with the paints are amazing. I really didn’t see that coming.”

Riefler believes there is a future in the project, one that includes sales of the paint-powder to fund additional stream reclamation attempts.

“It can be scalable,” Sabraw explains. “So that every single stream that is polluted from this kind of acid mine drainage – whether in Ohio or around the world — can have a model to use.”

“My job is to tell the story of the process,” he adds. “To tell the story through beauty.”

While his palette might be different than the traditional painter, Sabraw’s artistic process is the same. He chooses his color, lifts his hand, and adds a little bit of Southeast Ohio’s coal mining legacy to his canvas.

— Ellee Prince

Photo Caption

Ohio University’s 1804 Fund has supported Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Guy Riefler’s work to reclaim the polluted waters of Sunday Creek since 2011. By doing so, the fund also supports the work of students who assist Riefler in the lab and gain valuable experience.

Sheila Rowan McHale, AB ’68, emeriti member of the Ohio University Foundation Board, discusses the importance of the 1804 Fund.

OT: What is the 1804 Fund endowment?

Sheila Rowan McHale: Technically, it’s a fund of money to supplement the research grants for graduate and undergraduate programs. Aesthetically, it’s a ray of creativity. The work by Riefler and Sabraw is the perfect example of the kind of collaboration and ingenuity that 1804 fosters.

What is your involvement with the 1804 Fund?

I’m now an emeriti member of the Foundation Board, which historically decides who receives awards from the 1804 Fund. The Foundation membership realizes and values this type of program as it affects the university at so many levels. Not only does it foster innovation, creativity, academic curiosity and excellence, but it’s also a great faculty-recruiting tool.

In March, you and your husband, Larry, gave $25,000 to match any gift to the Fund in amounts up to $2,500 made by June 30, 2014. What inspired you?

There are so many students and faculty receiving benefits from this endowment. It goes back to the pay it forward idea — like the faculty with the paint collection program — we’re paying it forward.  Dr. David Bayless (Loehr Professor of Mechanical Engineering), who’s been a recipient of a number of our grants, told me the support he got from the Fund was like a spark plug for his academic research. The excitement it creates is truly electric!

What should alumni know about the 1804 Fund?

If you truly believe in reinvesting in OHIO, this is an excellent way to do it. The Fund goes across every single unit: We’ve funded grants for everything from pianos, to high tech tools for genome research, to formulating programs for academic excellence — the reach is so broad. It’s another example of what makes us the outstanding institution we are.

— Ellee Prince

Pay It Forward: Matching Program Makes the Most of Scholarships

Photo Caption

Abby Stauffenger, a senior management information systems major from North Canton, Ohio, is a scholarship recipient who gives back to the community through her involvement at the local Passion Works Studio, an art studio that fosters collaboration between people with and without mental disabilities. Looking ahead, she says, “I hope that one day I can come back to give advice to and mentor students who will be in the same place as I am now.”

Photo by Ryan M. L. Young.

When you touched down at Ohio University for the first time, did you fall in love right away with the state’s first university because of the pristine campus, the spirited community, or the “OHIO vibe” you’d probably heard about? Maybe cupid’s arrow struck during a college visit, or maybe it hit during fall quarter (or semester) when you suddenly felt right at home while surrounded by the electric fall colors.

Abby Stauffenger, a senior management information systems major from North Canton, Ohio, used to visit Athens with her family to see her older brothers, Max and Sam, both Ohio University alumni. When she applied to the university, she was offered a scholarship and enrolled.

“There are countless things I love about Ohio University, but No. 1 would have to be the people,” Stauffenger says. "OHIO has a way of attracting diverse, interesting and exciting people and making us feel like we’re one big family.” 

Stauffenger attributes a pivotal part of her success to the financial help the scholarship offered and the requirements she had to fulfill upon accepting it.

“My scholarship came with a program called Copeland Scholars, which held weekly meetings my freshman year. This opened many doors for me, and is the main reason I am so involved in my college,” she says. “It opened up my eyes to the world of business, too, and really kick-started my learning. It also provided me with a networking trip to Chicago my freshman year.

“All of these factors gave me strong motivation to stay focused on my academics and helped me become a well-rounded individual.”

Attracting focused and engaged students like Stauffenger is a founding goal of Ohio University. To that end, the university not only invests in keeping its idyllic campuses beautiful, maintaining academic excellence and encouraging diversity, but also invests in garnering scholarship support for students who dream of realizing their promise, whether it’s to become a teacher, a doctor, an entrepreneur or a TV anchor.

While family visits to Athens influenced Stauffenger’s decision to attend Ohio University, she says the scholarship sealed the deal.

“My brothers' attendance and the beautiful campus drew me here, but once I received the scholarship, I knew Ohio University would be the perfect match. Through these four years, I have realized I could not be more right. I would not be the student I am today without my scholarship.”

Each year, private gifts to Ohio University provide about $3.3 million in scholarship support. To boost this amount even more, the university launched The Undergraduate Scholarship Investment Program this year — a program that will help make an Ohio University degree a reality for even more students and continue the excellence in academic programs and research realized at the university every day.

Ohio University is investing $25 million in the Undergraduate Scholarship Investment Program and will provide 50 cents for every dollar committed to eligible scholarship accounts beginning July 1, 2013.  The program has four goals: to allow more students access to a degree who, without financial support, would not be able to attend; to recruit more of the best and the brightest students seeking a college degree; to provide additional endowed financial support for the university that holds value over time; and to raise awareness of the impact of scholarship fundraising.


When alumni and friends donate to existing scholarship endowments or create their own, the students who receive scholarship support aren’t the only ones who benefit. Academic programs across the university also gain powerful recruiting tools and benefit from a top-notch and diverse student body. And, the bigger the Ohio University Foundation’s endowment gets – whether through the scholarship investment program or other contributions – the more support students, academic programs and research efforts receive.

Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit has believed in this opportunity to support students from the very beginning. 

“These endowed scholarships support talented and academically qualified students who struggle to pay for college and who, we predict, will contribute to the culture of the university and, someday, to the field in which they study and practice,” Benoit says.  “But, these endowed scholarships are also investments in academic programs that contribute to OHIO’s larger community.” 

Ultimately, any gift toward an endowed scholarship — an existing scholarship or one established through the University Scholarship Investment Program — means more access to those who dream of donning the cap and gown and collecting their diploma at The Convo.

“We see this investment potentially increasing the matriculation and graduation of more first-generation students, students from low-income families, and non-traditional students,” Benoit says. “It will allow Ohio University to continue generating jobs, cutting-edge research and skilled alumni who will make their mark around the globe.”

— Matt Mackay and Kelee Riesbeck

Horse Sense: Lessons of Healing at a Southern Campus Facility

The joke goes like this: “When does a horse talk?”

Answer: “Whinny wants to.”

At the Ohio University Southern Horse Park Center for Therapeutic Horsemanship, “whinny wants to” happens every day.

Without words, the horses connect with everyone around them, simply by doing what they do best: being horses.

The Southern Campus, a regional branch of Ohio University, has been home to the Ohio Horse Park since 1995. At this facility located only 20 minutes from campus, students are able to complete their degree in equine studies and train to become professionals in the horse industry.

The Horse Park Center for Therapeutic Horsemanship, which is maintained by a mix of students, staff and volunteers, has become a beacon of hope for those in the community with a variety of diagnoses.

Just over the past two years, the center has served clients from age 4 to 60 with a range of diagnoses such as cerebral palsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, Asperger syndrome and Down syndrome. Every therapy process is unique, producing individualized results for each rider. But when a patient does respond, it can be a pivotal and emotional experience for all involved.

The following slide show follows a session with Horse Park Center for Therapeutic Horsemanship instructor Charlene Halkiu, AAS ’12. Halkiu describes her decision to become a certified therapeutic instructor, as well as her daily work at the Horse Park Center.

— Kandlyn Collins

This SlideShowPro photo gallery requires the Flash Player plugin and a web browser with JavaScript enabled.
Photo Caption

More than 4,000 first-year students – the largest freshman class yet– were inducted into Ohio University in August 2013 during the President’s Convocation for First-Year Students. The annual event in the Convocation Center was the culmination of Go Green Week, which welcomed new and returning Bobcats, and marked the first time the Class of 2017 gathered in one place. The next time they will meet? Commencement 2017. Photo by Ben Siegel, BSVC ’13.

This Winter 2013 special issue of Ohio Today Online was produced with the help of student writers and designers employed this semester at Ohio University Advancement Communication and Marketing:

Kandlyn Collins, BSJ ’14
Matt Mackay, BSC ’14
MaryKate McHugh, BSJ ’13
Erik Myers, BFA ’14
Ellee Prince, BSJ ’14
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
Assistant Director Advancement Communication and Marketing: Kelee Garrison Riesbeck, BSJ ’91