Ohio University President Duane Nellis honored the 214 years of impact Ohio University has made to society, to its faculty, alumni and current students at the State of the University address Tuesday afternoon in Walter Rotunda.
Nellis opened by commending Frank Papay — chair of the Cleveland Clinic’s Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Institute, Medal of Merit recipient and Ohio University alumnus — on a groundbreaking successful face transplant, which was shown on this month’s cover of National Geographic.
“We have an internationally renowned expert, working at an internationally renowned medical facility, changing a woman’s life, changing a field of medicine, changing possibilities for others, changing the world,“ Nellis said. “And he is one of ours.”
The president also recognized Marie Tharp, a 1943 OU alumna, named one of the four greatest cartographers of the 20th century. Tharp entered a male-dominated field in which her findings were dismissed and mocked, Nellis said. Her work mapped 70 percent of the Earth’s surface and confirmed the theory of continental drift and plate tectonics.
Nellis also honored Gigi Secuban, OU’s first vice president for diversity and inclusion, and described her as a visionary leader for the university. Secuban has been working with regional campuses to establish lactation areas for mothers, including a portable lactation room in The Convo during sporting events.
The university has set a five-year goal to increase diversity among its faculty and staff members, Nellis said. Secuban has also developed strategies to target underrepresented populations in student recruitment and retention rates.
“I believe the success of increasing student recruitment and retention is in elevating our national profile,” Nellis said. “As I said in my investiture address, we need to better tell our story and define the distinctive value of an Ohio University education.”
Nellis also talked about the financial sustainability of the university and the desire to better serve students and advance the academic core of the university. The investments made are often centered around student success, Nellis said.
“The intent is by investing in this critically important group of our students we will improve their quality of life and free them of financial stresses, enabling them to focus on their research and scholarship,” Nellis said.
The president also celebrated the countless success of faculty research. He highlighted Nancy Stevens, one of OU’s internationally recognized paleontologists. Stevens helped discover the “holy grail of dinosaurs” that linked ancient Africa and Europe, Nellis said.
Additionally, the president announced the opening of the new “Co-Lab” space, or C-Suite, on Alden Library’s third floor. The lab will enable students to make their own aspirations possible, Nellis said.
Nellis concluded by thanking and congratulating alumni, staff, colleagues and students on their outstanding achievements and their impact on society.
“In summation, the state of our university is strong. And the future of our great, national university is very bright. And that is because of you,” Nellis said.