A Party School with Passion

by Mark on August 4, 2011

My alma mater, Ohio University, recently became the #1 party school in the nation. As an ancient alumnus, I am asked whether or not the ‘Harvard on the Hocking’ was a party school back in my day. Yes, Ohio University offered both parties and passion in the 1970’s.

It is alleged consuming too much alcohol began at Ohio University’s founding around 1804. Surveyors should have chosen flat valley outside the current site, called ‘The Plains.’ After sipping too much liquor, they stumbled into the Appalachian foothills of Athens to establish the school. Climbing hills kept students fit for over two hundred years.

I arrived at Ohio University in September 1970. It was like ‘Tobey Tyler’ joining the circus. The campus was an armed camp with helmeted police and deputies observing our arrival. During the previous spring, students died under National Guard gunfire at Kent State University, the second most boring campus in the Buckeye State. Ohio University and its fellow schools closed after some violent protests. Our guards seemed itching for another confrontation.

The shadow of the Viet Nam War hung over the Freshmen class. A trip to Southeast Asia appeared likely after graduation. Participate in an illegal gathering, a fight, or simply flunk out, led to the open arms of our local draft board. Completing a degree in four years was not based on diligence or discipline, just self-preservation.

Despite the fears and frustrations, Ohio University loved to celebrate. One could easily create a fake ID. There were more bars than church in Athens. (At least 40 steeples glowed among the hills). Rather than stand in line, it was easy to follow a rolling keg toward a fire trap house near campus. My future wife’s sorority, Kappa Delta, out-drank any fraternity before being banished by their national office.

My recollections of Ohio University were not based on alcohol, which likely impacted my memory. The campus amplified passion. Whether in the classroom or the campus green, there was energy around activism. Help the poor. Feed the hungry. Get out of Asian Wars. Tables stood at the campus gates, and on its greens, seeking signatures and spinning activist philosophies.

At the time gigantic shovels chewed at the mountaintops in Ohio and West Virginia. A moon-like and poisoned atmosphere remained in its wake. OU students stood before the big shovel in a futile attempt to block its progress. There was electricity in the air at Ohio University about changing the world. Many of the discussions on how to achieve it were over beers.

Only two riots occurred during my tenure. A freak snowstorm stirred a riot that made national news as a sophomore. A spring disruption my senior year occurred when daylight savings time prematurely closed bars on a Saturday night. The famous OU Halloween celebration was in its infant stages. By graduation the Viet Nam War wound down, Nixon was impeached, and the helmeted guards disappeared.

I dove into the business world with high expectations on changing the world. Frustration remains, given the height of the hurdle. Hopefully, time remains to make a difference. I toast the nation’s number one party school. If there was a reward on passion, Ohio University would be celebrating with two trophies.

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JL August 7, 2011 at 12:40 am

I too graduated from OU Mark…..maybe not in 4 years but really fell in love with the Hocking Hills after visiting you & Babyface. No place like it anywhere and have many great memories of southern Ohio!

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