Mary B. Thomas ’28 Commitment to Otterbein Award Honorees

The Mary B. Thomas ’28 Commitment to Otterbein Award was established by President Emerita Kathy Krendl and the University Board of Trustees to recognize extraordinary philanthropic leadership, service, and advancement of Otterbein’s mission. It is the highest honor Otterbein bestows upon its community members for transformational leadership and commitment. Two awards were conferred at this year’s Celebration of Otterbein event at Homecoming and Family Weekend on Oct. 1.

Mary B. Thomas Award Honorees 2022

The 2022 Mary B. Thomas ’28 Commitment to Otterbein Award honorees: Mark ’78 and Deb Scott ’77 Thresher, P’05 (front row) and members of the Otterbein “O” Club including (left to right) past president Ron Jones ’61, current president Mark Granger ’79, and past president Jack Pietila ’62.

Mary B. Thomas ’28 Commitment to Otterbein Award honorees: Mark ’78 and Deb Scott ’77 Thresher P’05

Former Board of Trustees Chair Mark Thresher ’78 P’05 and his wife, Deb Scott ’77 Thresher P’05, met at an Otterbein football game in the fall of 1975 when Mark was a sophomore and Deb was a junior. The two began dating shortly thereafter and Deb, a music education major, selected Mark, an accounting major, as her escort when she was elected Homecoming Queen in 1976. Deb was a member of Epsilon Kappa Tau sorority and participated in choir and band while at Otterbein. Mark played basketball and was a member of Torch and Key and Tau Pi Phi honoraries. They married four months after Mark’s graduation in 1978.

The Threshers have never forgotten how their experiences at Otterbein helped prepare them for life, which has become the catalyst for their incredible support of the University over the years. The impact of their generosity can be seen in gifts to establish a scholarship fund for music education majors (Deborah and Mark Thresher Family Scholarship), a fellowship that will support experiential learning at Otterbein (Mark and Deborah Thresher Fellowship), and annual support of the Otterbein Fund. In total, the Threshers have donated a significant amount in support of Otterbein over the past 31 years.

Otterbein “O” Club Foundation

Established in 1955, the Otterbein “O” Club aids and assists Otterbein University by contributing to our athletic programs and students. That year, Robert “Moe” Agler ’48 was appointed head football coach and along with his friends, former football teammates, Edwin “Dubbs” Roush ’47 and Francis “Red” Bailey ’43, the trio received permission to establish a Varsity “O” Alumni Club. In addition to Roush, who served as the organization’s first president, and Bailey, who served as its first vice president, the original board of directors also included John Zezech ’44, Harold Augspurger ’41, and Dwight “Smokey” Ballenger ’39.

Over the last 60 years, the “O” Club has partnered with Otterbein to enhance its athletic program in countless ways. Supported by the donations of individuals, businesses, trusts, and foundations, the “O” Club has been a transformational force in improving Otterbein’s athletic facilities, benefiting not only its student-athletes but the entire campus and extended Westerville community as well. In 1981, the club created its own foundation and to date has donated significantly to support athletics programs and facilities. Major projects benefiting from their support include the Rike Center weight room in 2008, Memorial Stadium renovations in 2005, the new track and turf in 2014, and repairs to the pole vault area of the track.

Otterbein remains deeply grateful for the ongoing support of the Threshers and the “O” Club Foundation and extends congratulations to these outstanding recipients of the 2022 Mary B. Thomas ’28 Commitment to Otterbein Award.

Grants, Corporate, and Foundation Support

Grants help to provide essential funding for new programs, research, and other areas that directly impact our students at Otterbein. Our faculty and staff have recently been awarded grants from several organizations, including:

Martha Holden Foundation Logo

Martha Holden Jennings Foundation

AMOUNT: $31,926

Supports the conversion of art integrated chemistry lessons and activities developed for our Integrative Studies Chemistry in Art course.

Ohio Department Of Higher Education

Ohio Department of Higher Education

AMOUNT: $1,259,937

Funds scholarships for Ohio students who enter majors including nursing, math, math education, and actuarial science.

State Library Logo

State Library of Ohio

AMOUNT: $46,399

Supported the installation of touchless lockers in the Courtright Memorial Library as well as the installation of a contactless book drop.

Ohio Board Of Nursing Color

Ohio Board of Nursing

AMOUNT: $200,000

Supports efforts to address the nursing shortage within the State of Ohio. This two-year program will allow Otterbein to increase the number of clinical precepting placement positions and the number of clinical preceptors at IHA Sunbury Urgent Care Center.

Swaco Logo


AMOUNT: $16,900

Supports the creation of a zero-waste plan for Otterbein University in conjunction with RRS Consulting Services. SWACO, RRS Consulting, and Otterbein will work together to identify opportunities across campus to implement zero waste strategies for external events held on campus.

Celebrating Excellence

Alumni Awards Winners 2022

Front row (left to right): Tonya M. Milligan ’90, MAE’98, James Wagner ’56, P’81, P’88, and Karen Castro ’12. Back row (left to right): Jodi West Zellers ’96, Brooke Wilson ’10, Hilary Stone MBA’20, Alicia D. Caudill ’95, and Debbie Horn, accepting on behalf of her brother, Theodore Lloyd Jones ’70.

The Cardinal community is filled with high achievers, both in the professional workplace and in service to the community. During Homecoming & Family Weekend, we were honored to recognize 11 outstanding individuals for their ongoing accomplishments and one organization for its commitment to Otterbein athletics.

Rossman Honorary Alumni Award

Stephen Rossman H’22, a staff member in Otterbein’s Department of Communication, receives the Honorary Alumni award from President Comerford.

Learn more about the 2022 award recipients at

Rising Star Award
Karen Castro ’12
Hilary Stone MBA’20
Brooke Wilson ’10

Otterbein Alumni Award
Alicia D. Caudill ’95
Theodore Lloyd Jones ’70
Tonya M. Milligan ’90, MAE’98
James Wagner ’56, P’81, P’88
Jodi West Zellers ’96

Honorary Alumni
Stephen Rossman H’22

Mary B. Thomas ’28 Commitment to Otterbein Award
Otterbein “O” Club
Mark ’78 & Deb Scott ’77 Thresher P’05

Become a Member of the 1847 Society During Otterbein’s 175th Anniversary

1847 SocietyOtterbein’s 1847 Society recognizes individuals and couples who have established a planned gift to the University. During Otterbein’s 175th anniversary year, planned gifts are a meaningful way to ensure your legacy and commemorate this historic milestone. Planned gifts, at their core, are one of the best ways you can “pay it forward” to make an impact for future students and ensure that Otterbein remains a leader in higher education.

“Now that I’m retired, I’m looking at new possibilities for planned giving. I can make Otterbein a partial beneficiary of my Individual Retirement Account (IRA), and my estate will receive a charitable deduction. I’m forever grateful to Otterbein for the opportunity to complete my college degree,” said Peggy Ruhlin ’79. Ruhlin, who served on the Board of Trustees, made a generous unrestricted gift through a life insurance policy during Otterbein’s Where We STAND Matters campaign.

Planned gifts offer a way to leave assets to Otterbein that provide current and future benefits for you, and the University. Often, these gifts allow donors to make larger gifts than they may be able to make through their discretionary income. Common planned gifts include bequests, charitable gift annuities, trusts, and retirement assets.

Peggy Ruhlin

Peggy Ruhlin ’79 supported Otterbein through a life insurance planned gift.

Learn more about how you can leave a legacy at Otterbein at Be sure to sign up for the free monthly eNewsletter.

Collaborating for Opportunity and Justice for All

There are not many university leaders who are willing to talk about the problems in American higher education, and even fewer willing to do something about it. On July 14, two leaders took the first step in doing the work of fixing a broken system, with a focus on contributing to society as a whole.

Otterbein University President John Comerford and Antioch University Chancellor Bill Groves, at an event livestreamed to both campuses, announced that the two universities were partnering with the intention to form a first-of-its-kind system of affiliated, independent, not-for-profit universities focused on shared graduate and adult learner programs.

The foundation of the system, and the calling card for future member universities, is the universities’ shared missions of providing access to an affordable, world-class education, while educating students to become engaged citizens advancing democracy; social, racial, and environmental justice; and the common good.

One advantage of the new system is that members will keep their distinctive undergraduate programs, branding, athletics, and student organizations. “Otterbein will always remain a residential undergraduate university built around meaningful faculty-student engagement and relationships,” Comerford said. “But given ongoing demographic trends, with decreasing numbers of high school graduates nationally for the next 15 years at a minimum, focusing only on undergraduates is not a sustainable path.”

Comerford noted that in Ohio alone more than two million adults have some college credit, but no degree.

“The system will additionally offer tailored workforce education programs with badges, certificates and other credentials to learners and business partners nationwide,” stated Comerford. “These workforce education programs not only help to keep and generate jobs in our local communities, they are important on-ramps for adult learners to pursue higher education and advanced credentials. Moreover, because the programs will be tailored to meet the specific needs of the employer, those businesses will ordinarily share in the cost of that education, improving access and affordability of higher education.”

Comerford laments the growing competition within higher education, driven by universities striving for prestige and rankings. “One of the most terrible aspects of our current model is that rather than judging universities by how they change the lives of the students they enroll, most rankings value how difficult it is for students to be admitted,” said Comerford. “The ‘most prestigious’ universities in the nation tend to admit a tiny percentage of the students who apply. Really? That’s how we share this incredible, life-changing resource, by closing the door on deserving students?”

Collaboration Over Competition

The new system prioritizes collaboration over competition. This innovative system allows the universities to expand adult learner and graduate degree offerings, to offer programs in more locations nationwide, to provide innovative learning modalities including online, low-residency, and hybrid settings, to create new opportunities for student engagement across institutions, and to enhance capacities and contain costs through shared services and improved technologies.

The system also gives Otterbein programs a national footprint. Antioch University currently has locations in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Seattle, Yellow Springs, OH, and Keene, NH.

Faculty and staff teams are working to identify which Antioch University programs will be offered in central Ohio. They are also exploring which of Otterbein’s well-respected graduate nursing and health and sport sciences programs will be offered in these out-of- state locations.

The benefits of the new system will not be limited to adult learners and graduate students. Several exciting undergraduate opportunities are under consideration, including guaranteed early admission pathways between Otterbein undergraduate programs and Antioch University’s graduate programs. Possibilities include pathways from Otterbein psychology and sociology degrees to Antioch University’s many community mental health counseling master’s programs, as well as a connection between Otterbein’s bachelor of fine arts in creative writing with Antioch University’s master of fine arts program.

Other ideas under consideration would allow Otterbein undergraduates to spend a semester or term studying at an Antioch University location, for instance, allowing an environmental studies major to spend a semester in Keene, New Hampshire, home of the environmental studies graduate program.

Otterbein faculty, staff, and administrators have been in discussions about the new system for many months. “Otterbein University and Antioch University saw a huge opportunity to be ahead of the curve, proactive, and forward thinking in what is often an antiquated, slow-to-change higher education system. They both also saw a need to do something different at a time when change is sorely needed in higher education,” said Otterbein Professor Joan Rocks, Department of Health and Sport Sciences.

For more information about plans for this new national university system, visit

Jefferson Blackburn Smith

Jefferson Blackburn-Smith is the vice president of Enrollment Management and Marketing. He has developed and implemented new partnerships with Central Ohio school districts and community colleges to create new opportunities to underserved populations to earn a higher education degree.

Ensuring Every Student will be READY

A new career and professional development program at Otterbein University will prepare students for their futures by promoting academic and career exploration; immersive, hands-on experiences; and professional development skills like networking and goal mapping.

Understanding how critical it is for students to make these connections between their academic studies and their career aspirations, Otterbein is making the commitment that every student will go through four years of exploration, advising, and planning.

“We want our students to be ready for life after graduation,” said Jennifer Bechtold, assistant provost and executive director of Student Success and Career Development. “This four-year plan will give them the confidence and the skills they’ll need after Otterbein.”

Keeping that commitment front and center is the reason behind its name: Every Student Will be READY.

Bechtold explained that Otterbein’s signature First Year Experience (FYE) seminar courses have been reimagined with a team approach. FYE faculty will continue to help students transition to college-level learning, and now an Otterbein staff coach will join the first-year team to help students navigate time management and explore personal interests, goals, and career paths.

But the big ideas don’t end there. In addition to classroom speakers, whether in person or virtual, Bechtold said that alumni and Otterbein friends can support this initiative by offering internships and opportunities to collaborate on projects. “This will add to the program and help serve the entire Class of 2026, the first class to be part of the new Otterbein Every Student Will be READY program,” Bechtold said.

Robin Grote, associate professor of chemistry and director of undergraduate research and creative work, taught an FYE pilot course last year with the new model. She said having a staff partner enhanced the classroom experience. Grote said the students saw a team in action and began to understand that Otterbein is a network with many people across its community who want to help. “It was very representative of what it is like to be at Otterbein,” she said.

Grote believes students will be more engaged earlier in their college experiences. “Some of the best classroom experiences are when students interact with speakers. Anytime we can have visitors share their experiences related to the subject or to life – and do that in real-time – it’s much more interesting than just listening to a lecture from their professor.”

Otterbein leaders have seen first-hand how valuable immersive, hands-on experiences are to a student’s career preparation. While some academic programs like nursing and education already include those opportunities, Otterbein wants all students to have at least one signature immersive experience before they graduate.

Those experiences will vary greatly and will include everything from leadership experience to internships and study abroad. There are some funds currently in place to offset the costs of studying abroad, working a summer internship, or volunteering for community service, but program organizers say more support will be needed as the program expands to the entire student body.

Alumni Jon ’79 and Gretchen Freeman Hargis ’77 understood the importance of the Every Student Will be READY program. The couple runs the Hargis Family Foundation and were early supporters. “We believe a very important part of a college education is to prepare students on how to maximize their ability to gain employment in the field of their studies post-graduation. This initiative will provide all students the opportunity to work on these skills throughout their time as an Otterbein University student.”

According to Leah Schuh ’11, assistant director for experiential learning, the goal is to prepare students for post-graduation by increasing their access and creative focus.

“We want students to find meaning in what they did and how they can utilize that to be more prepared for employers and graduate schools,” she said. A dedicated team will help students to maximize their time at Otterbein and show them how to communicate the experience outcomes.

Schuh explained that Otterbein has a long history of combining hands-on experiences with classroom learning. Getting students READY for their futures will formalize what Otterbein has already focused on: hands-on experiences, mentorship, and guidance.

Alumni and friends can help support this exciting program by supporting the READY Fund to assist with costs for students’ immersive experiences. For more information on ways you or your company or organization could support this program or contribute to student success, please reach out to Kathleen Bonte, executive director of development, Institutional Advancement at 614-823-2707.

Chief Diversity Officer Jeff King Focuses on Community & Collaboration

Jeff King has a lot of important work to do. As Otterbein’s first chief diversity officer, he will provide leadership and vision to the strategies and policies of the institution in the crucial area of diversity, equity, and inclusion. To do so, he’s ready to collaborate across campus.

Student Affairs wants to foster a campus culture that attracts and retains more diverse students. Academic Affairs wants to meaningfully incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion into the curricula of more courses. Enrollment Management wants to provide opportunities for more students from underserved school districts. The list goes on.

King knows what it takes to improve in all of these areas. He came to Otterbein with more than three decades of higher education experience in the areas of diversity and inclusion, admission, and student life.

We talked to King as he begins his new role:

We talked to King as he begins his new role:


to students and amplifying their voices.


more voices into important conversations.


in ways that engage students of different backgrounds.

How will you expand on the work that’s already being done at Otterbein?

It is both an honor and kind of a humbling experience to be the person chosen to lead the institution — an institution that’s 175 years old — on to hopefully even greater heights, especially as it pertains to moving toward a more diverse and equitable campus community.

What most interested you about joining Otterbein at this time in this role?

I started my career at an institution that was part of the Underground Railroad, Wilberforce University. That was my first opportunity to work in an institution that was so integral in the Underground Railroad and the freeing of enslaved Africans and African Americans. Coming to an institution that was so instrumental in that same movement set the stage for the latter part of my career.

From your standpoint, what does an inclusive and equitable campus look like?

It looks like a place where you see representation of diversity everywhere you go, and diversity does not just have to be represented in the color of someone’s skin or the way that person dresses or the gender of that person. If we are able to welcome and recognize that diversity on our campus and promote it, that’s what we’re looking for.

How will you expand on the work that’s already being done at Otterbein?

There are a lot of good things that are already going on that just need to be expanded upon. We just need to bring more voices to the table. It’s a matter of making sure that we include everyone that wants to be included, in the way in which they want to be defined and included.

How do you hope to engage with students?

We have to meet students where they are to make sure that we’re listening to the students and amplifying their voices and making sure those voices are heard. I think that’s part of why you have a Chief Diversity Officer now — to make sure their voices are being heard at the level of the cabinet and the Board of Trustees, in the community, and with the alums so their needs are being met and addressed.

What does culturally inclusive curricula look like and what is the benefit to students?

The concept of culturally responsive teaching practices, as I call it, came from a colleague of mine at Vanderbilt University, Professor Rich Milnor, who wrote a book called Start Where You Are But Don’t Stay There. If we’re doing good things in the classroom, continue those things but don’t just stay there. Make sure that you’re taking on challenges, looking from different perspectives, and employing teaching practices that will hopefully engage students that may have a different background. We can know everything that we need to know about another person’s culture but still not understand that person. And that’s where the concept of not only culturally responsive teaching practice has become so important, but the concept of cultural humility. Cultural humility is the capacity for us, as faculty and staff members, to address our students at an appropriate level where they understand that we’re not that different from who they are becoming. They don’t know that we’ve had some of the same hardships and experiences. Some of us failed calculus just like they did, some of us had difficulties getting to our 8 a.m. class just like they did. Once we can get to that concept of cultural humility, students start to understand us better and trust is built.

Are there ways alumni can get involved or support the work that you are doing at Otterbein?

I’m going to be reaching out to Otterbein alumni to talk to a group of students about your career path and what you did in your career to succeed. Talk about the obstacles that — in that same spirit of culturally responsive teaching and cultural humility — show these students that you had the same struggles that they have and now you’re a lawyer or engineer. We want alumni encouraging our students, being a network for the students so they can catapult on to their successful careers.

What do you want the Otterbein community to know that’s a core part of who you are and how you like to do business?

I hope that the faculty and administrators on this campus, as well as our students and the people of Otterbein, Westerville, and Columbus, understand that we want to work with you. If you want me to come to your class and speak to them about diversity or to have a dialogue, then I will come, I will bring others with me, and we will continue to work with you. If you decide you want to do a program, talk to my office about possible collaborations because that’s the only way I will do business. You will hardly ever see a program sponsored by this one office or this one entity; it is going to be a litany of co-sponsors working in close association that support each other.

WELCOME to Campus

Frank E. Dobson Jr., Ph.D.

Frank is the new director of the Office of Social Justice and Activism. He has served in numerous capacities in higher education, teaching, and promoting campus diversity efforts nationwide. A published writer and scholar, he seeks to promote the “Beloved Community,” and the African concept of Ubuntu: “I am, because we are.” His novels, Rendered Invisible and The Race is Not Given, probe conflict and trauma due to racism, violence, and mental health.

Most recently, he has written on Black popular culture and film, including such diverse figures as Spike Lee, Clint Eastwood, Vin Diesel, and the legendary actor and athlete, Woody Strode. Dobson has served on several social justice boards, and he believes that social justice can be furthered through communication, empathy, and grace toward one another. Along with his daughter, Jasmin, he is coauthoring a series of children’s books titled Black Legacy Lessons, highlighting African American trailblazers.

Campus Center Renovation Focuses on Accessibility

“I see this project as an opportunity to create an inviting, collaborative space for students to use, socialize in, and enjoy all three levels of this building.”

— Patrick Siconolfi,
Executive Director of Facilities Management and Planning.

As phase one of the renovation nears completion, Otterbein is seeking additional support to launch phase two. To donate to the Campus Center Renovation, or discuss naming opportunities, please visit or call the Office of Institutional Advancement at 614-823-1305 to learn more about this meaningful project.

Learn more >

The Campus Center renovation broke ground in March, and now phase one of this exciting project is nearly complete with many new features for our campus community.

“The Campus Center was initially constructed in 1964, so the renovations will modernize and bring the building into the 21st century,” said senior public relations major Hope Beverick ’23. “I’m looking forward to seeing the new plaza in front of the Campus Center and the addition of the second-floor parlor.”

Associate Director of New Student Transitions Colette Masterson served for many years as the director of the Center for Student Involvement, which is housed in the Campus Center. She thinks a renovated Campus Center is important to student life. “The Campus Center is truly the living room of the campus and student experience. These renovations will allow us to enhance the student experience outside the classroom.”

The focus for the first phase of the renovation is to make the building more accessible and inviting for all members of the Otterbein community. To achieve this, major improvements were necessary, including a new elevator at the southwest corner of the building, a plaza in front of the building with improved ramps, and new restrooms on the second floor and lower level.

Campus Center Interrior

Interior finishes in the new second-floor parlor.

Student Walking Towards Campus Center

Putting the finishing touches on the front elevation and terrace.

“I see this project as an opportunity to create an inviting, collaborative space for students to use, socialize in, and enjoy all three levels of this building,” said Patrick Siconolfi, executive director of facilities management and planning.

Additional upgrades include a redesigned bookstore, new second-floor parlor and entrance to the Cardinal’s Nest dining hall, and new improvements to the lower- level theatre lobby and ticket booth.

“I think it will bring a renewed, invigorating spirit to the Campus Center. It shows the commitment of the University to invest in student spaces and make them places we want to congregate together, further enhancing the community feel of our campus. It makes me proud to be a student here,” said James Akers MBA’23, who is also the executive chef at Otterbein with Parkhurst Dining.

The Campus Center renovation creates welcoming, inclusive spaces.

Learn more >

Catie Duzzny ’21 graduated from Otterbein with a bachelor’s degree in public relations. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in business administration in Otterbein’s Graduate School.

Otterbein Homecoming and Family Weekend 2022

Otterbein University celebrated the 175th anniversary of its founding in 1847 with a variety of special events at this year’s Homecoming and Family Weekend. The 50th Golden Reunion classes of 1971 and 1972 came back to campus to reconnect and take a walk down memory lane. The annual Alumni Awards ceremony and State of the University Address were held in Cowan Hall as part of the Celebration of Otterbein.

Students, alumni, faculty, staff, parents, and friends enjoyed the music of The British Invasion band, Allison Asarch ’18, Alex Toth ’22, and The Blue Jays, as well as food, fun, and festivities of OtterFest throughout the weekend.

Band March

The band marches on

Time To Celebrate Otterbein's 175th

Time to celebrate Otterbein’s 175th

Alumni Reunite

Alumni reunite

Home Coming Fun

Homecoming fun

Enjoying Family Weekend

Family weekend time

1971 50th Reunion Class Photo

Class of 1971 Golden Reunion class photo

Class Of 1972 Golden Reunion Class Photo

Class of 1972 Golden Reunion class photo

Go Cards!

Go Cards

2022 Homecoming Court


Enjoying Family Weekend

Friends, family, & faculty celebrating Otterbein

Otterbein Football Beats Capital University 35 28.

Otterbein football beats Capital University 35-28

175th celebratory moment

175th celebratory moment

Cardinal Pride Alumni Table

Cardinal Pride Alumni Table

African American Student Union

African American Student Union

Members Of The Equine Team Join The Parade

Members of the Equine team join the Parade

President Emeriti Kathy Krendl And Professors Emeriti Dr Beth Daugherty And Dr Alison Prindle

L-R: President Emerita Kathy Krendl, Professors Emeritae Beth Daugherty & Alison Prindle

Courtright Memorial Library 50th Anniversary Celebration

Courtright Memorial Library 50th anniversary celebration

L-R: Mary Jane Stewart-Griffin ’75, Karla Courtright Banning ’70, Kristy Courtright ’68, John Stewart, President Comerford

View more photos from the weekend visit our Flickr gallery at

Faculty Explore Common Book Topics

Common Book Program

In September 2015, pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha went public with her team’s discovery of a human-made public health crisis in Flint, Michigan. Contaminated water exposed tens of thousands of Flint residents to dangerous levels of lead and caused the third-largest outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease recorded in U.S. history, which killed at least 12 people and sickened dozens more.

This year’s Common Book, What the Eyes Don’t See, is Hanna-Attisha’s first-hand account of her discovery and battle with her own government to expose the truth to the world.

As Otterbein’s incoming class of students reads this harrowing story, Otterbein professors will be sharing their unique expertise about the subjects addressed in the book. Among those are Professor Kevin Svitana, director of the Sustainability Studies Program and Associate Professor Rob Braun of Health and Sport Science, who teaches public health at Otterbein.

Otterbein Professors’ Insights into the 2022 Common Book

A water quality expert with more than three decades of experience as a geologist and hydrogeologist, Svitana offers a look at how the crisis happened:

“One of the failures of those responsible for the Flint water crisis is attributed to their lack of understanding of a water delivery system and the chemical dynamics of the system. While the Flint River water may not have been toxic, the chemistry of the water caused it to be corrosive to the pipes delivering the water to residents.

The corrosivity may or may not be attributed to pollution, but rather natural conditions, such as regional bedrock and soils, which can contain minerals or naturally occurring organics that can affect the water chemistry causing it to become corrosive. If the source water is corrosive, and this isn’t corrected by chemical adjustment prior to the water entering the distribution system, the corrosivity of the water begins to dissolve the pipes. If lead is part of the piping, whether it’s the actual pipe or the solder used to join copper pipes, it is dissolved into the water and travels as a lead-containing solution to consumers. This is the condition that occurred in Flint.”

In addition to how the crisis happened, the book examines why it happened. One of the main themes in the book is the environmental injustice the residents of Flint experienced. Associate Professor Rob Braun teaches public health education at Otterbein. He offers this view:

“The Environmental Protection Agency defines environmental justice as ‘the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. However, that ‘justice’ did not occur in the case of the Flint water crisis. As you read this book and reflect on its content, I encourage you to think of all the examples Dr. Hanna-Attisha reveals that contradict the above statement.”

For more information about this year’s Common Book, visit

Otterbein Continues to Climb in National Rankings

In the U.S. News & World Report 2022-2023 edition of “America’s Best Colleges,” Otterbein jumped from 12th place to 9th, placing it in the top 6% among 166 peers in the Regional Universities–Midwest category. In 2021, Otterbein was 21st overall in its category.

Additionally, Otterbein was recognized on the following lists:

Otterbein debuted at 9th in its category.

Otterbein jumped from 18th place to 7th, top 5% in its category.

Otterbein ranked 37th in its category.

Otterbein jumped from 121st to 67th in its category.

Otterbein has once again been recognized as one of the nation’s Colleges of Distinction. Otterbein received program-specific recognition in Business, Education, Engineering, Nursing, and Career Development. Otterbein was also recognized for Equity and Inclusion.

Colleges of Distinction’s selection process consists of a review of each institution’s first-year experience and retention efforts alongside its general education programs, alumni success, strategic plan, student satisfaction, and more. Schools are accepted on the basis that they adhere to the four distinctions: engaged students, great teaching, vibrant community, and successful outcomes.