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Professor Opened Life, Home to Student in Need

Professor Opened Life, Home to Student in Need

Professor Laubach Epitomized the Model Community

Otterbein’s Model Community is a recent concept, but one that has its roots in the leaders of its past. One such leader, Professor John Laubach, former chair of the Department of History and Political Science, exemplified the Model Community both inside and outside the classroom.

Laubach began his long career at Otterbein in 1958 and received an Honorary Alumnus Award in 1985. The award was created in 1950 for the purpose of recognizing and honoring those individuals who, though not graduates of Otterbein, have demonstrated outstanding interest, commitment and involvement in its life and activities. Recipients embody the notion that friends of the University, in addition to its alumni, can play an important and vital role in the enhancement of the institution. Laubach was the perfect choice for the award.

“Dr. Laubach was a great man and very brilliant,” recalled Stephanie Souryasack ’93. “He overcame a great challenge of deteriorating eyesight, and always remained sharp with a ‘photographic’ like memory. He and his wife were wonderful to me, and I would love the opportunity to repay his incredible generosity to me and to others.”

To Souryasack, Laubach was not only a mentor, but a friend who helped her through some difficult times.

Souryasack spent her high school years in different foster homes, but was determined to attend college. She went to Otterbein for a visitation day and fell in love with the look of the campus and how nice everyone was.

Otterbein offered her a generous financial aid package, and she began her first year as a political science major in the fall of 1989. Otterbein proved to be a perfect fit for her, from the welcoming campus to the personal attention she received from her professors.

But as the temperatures dropped and the leaves began to change colors that fall, Souryasack found herself with nowhere to spend the long winter break. She confided in Laubach, her advisor and professor whom she had already grown to respect and admire.

He consulted with his wife, Diane Harvey Laubach ’73, and the couple invited Souryasack to spend the holidays at their house near campus with the couple and Diane’s two sons. Soon, Souryasack began to feel like part of their family.

“They became like parents to me,” she said. “They were so generous and nice, and let me stay with them for my first three years at Otterbein. I visited with them like they were family and had dinners with them every so often or went to the house to get away from Otterbein every once in a while.”

Professor Laubach retired with emeritus status in 1992, and the Laubachs moved to Benton, PA. But they extended another act of kindness — the Laubachs paid the small amount of Souryasack’s tuition that remained. They returned to campus to see her graduate in 1993.

She went on to earn her master’s degree in business administration at Capital University in 1998. She began a successful career that included positions at CoreComm Telecommunications and Huntington Bancshares Incorporated, before she was hired by Nationwide in 2006. She currently works as IT application development manager for the Columbus-based Fortune 500 company.

Souryasack stayed in touch with the Laubachs through phone calls, emails and occasional visits, even taking her daughter along on one visit to Pennsylvania.

Professor Laubach passed away in 2008. Souryasack decided to honor her mentor and friend in 2009 by establishing the Dr. John H. Laubach Internship for Political Science to provide a grant to a full-time student pursuing an internship in political science.

She hopes that others who remember Laubach, or those who would like to provide hands-on learning experiences for political science students, will join her in supporting the endowed prize.

Read more stories about Otterbein's Model Community and "hidden lives" of Otterbein students in the newest edition of Towers Magazine.