Most Athenians recognize the contribution of the student population to quality of life in Athens. Quality of life can be detected in the interests and enthusiasm of our diverse population. The diverse populations and their talents together create a mosaic. To illustrate, I offer these points, opportunities, intellectual life, human needs and liberal thinking.
From our successes as an extractive then service economy, Athens has recently added or retained hundreds of good jobs in alternative energy and medical innovations.
Past history would not predict this growth. It could have happened anywhere, so why here? I see the combination of bright people with good ideas sprinkled with state money decades ago setting the process in motion. Innovations also came from individuals with a vision that flourished here. Because of the university infrastructure, students came and funded or participated in the development of these homegrown local opportunities.
Intellectual life depends on access to the larger world of ideas, and Athens is well connected. In a more traditional sense, Athens Public Library, our community venture, plays a major role in our flourishing intellectual life. Visit the library and see our community in action — gamers influenced by the simulation gaming initiative and joyful art: exemplified by the Homecoming parade dragon. Similar positive impacts are also evident in the arts and music.
We meet human needs as a community. The OU student chapter of Habitat for Humanity sponsored and completed the county affiliate’s most recent house. The same group co-sponsored Cardboard City for local children and young adults; their efforts raised thousands to support the local affiliate. Students collect food for local pantries; a notable example is the quarterly collection of hundred of bags of food by Professor Kiger and the Accountancy Honorary. This example is replicated across a variety of settings. In our community, you encounter student interns, volunteers, practicum-doers, and others learning and making a transition to the work place. We are all richer for these interactions.
My arguments on liberal thinking reflect a point of view more than a political position. Because Athens has a continuously new supply of young adults, the ideas keep flowing and help the older people to avoid fossilized thought patterns. Nothing made me prouder than the county’s unique stand (with three in Oregon) against anti-gay marriage fear-mongering during the 2004 presidential election. New ideas create opportunities for Athens. Fortunately, those who want to be left alone also may flourish here.
I really enjoy what we have created together in Athens. I have many additional examples of student contributions including early innovations in solid waste management and student-based clean up efforts. I feel privileged to live in Southern Ohio’s lush physical environment and to interact in a truly wonderful community that includes my neighbors, both students and year-round residents.
Students are definitely part of this, and I hope that as you move on that you do your part to create other outstanding communities.
Nancy Bain is the 3rd-Ward representative for Athens City Council.