Otterbein Named Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Campus Center

by | Jun 4, 2020 | Around the ‘Bein.

Front, L-R: Valerie Cumming, vice mayor, City of Westerville; Rev. Vaughn Bell, board member, Westerville City Schools; Elizabeth Brown, council member, City of Columbus; James Prysock ’09, director for the Office of Activism and Social Justice, Otterbein University; Cheryl Ward, director of emotional and student support services, Columbus City Schools. Back, L-R: John Comerford, president, Otterbein University; Wendy Sherman-Heckler, provost and executive vice president, Otterbein University; Margaret Koehler, professor and chair of the Department of English, Otterbein University; Kathryn Plank, director, Center for Teaching and Learning and interim associate vice president for academic affairs and dean of university programs, Otterbein University; and Tanya McClanahan, supervisor of higher education partnerships, Columbus City Schools.

Otterbein has been selected by the Association of American Colleges and Universities as one of 23 universities across the United States to host Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Campus Centers. Otterbein is the only institution in Ohio to receive this recognition. As a Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Campus Center (TRHT), Otterbein will work with its own campus community as well as the Columbus City and Westerville City school districts to create positive narrative change about race; promote racial healing activities; and erase structural barriers to equal treatment and opportunity. Otterbein leaders were joined by leaders from Westerville and Columbus for the announcement on Feb. 19.

    > 00:10 – Welcoming remarks, James Prysock, MBA
    > 01:30 – John Comerford, Ph.D.
    > 05:00 – Valerie Cumming
    > 12:20 – Cheryl Ward, LPCC-S
    > 19:21 – Rev. Vaughn Bell
    > 23:08 – Elizabeth Brown
    > 29:58 – Closing remarks, John Comerford, Ph.D.

Speaker Quotes

James Prysock, MBA

“We have learned a big secret at Otterbein, that I’ll fill you in on. When you gather the right people to do the right work, great things are possible.”

“As we start the conversation about the work we’ll be doing together as a Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Campus Center, I can assure you that the work will be intentional, innovative and inclusive.”


President John Comerford

“If you know anything about Otterbein, you know that we are not afraid of doing the right thing before it’s popular.”

“Today, we’re still not afraid to take on the big issues in society. We’re tackling access and affordability and workforce development. We are taking on success for traditionally underserved undergraduate populations. We’re integrating the liberal arts and have been a leader in that since the 1960s. And so today we get to add one more to that list, and I have got to say it has the most intimidating title of anything we’ve ever tried: Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation.”

“We all recognize from times in our lives where we learn a new perspective, where we see something from a new angle, where we meet someone who is different from us and understand the world and where they come from, and we see the world differently after that moment.”

“We hope and believe this will creates a real regional movement that will transform our communities for the better to and make sure that everyone has the opportunities that they deserve.”

“We are one of 23 campus centers in the country and the only one in Ohio.”


Valerie Cumming, Vice Mayor, Westerville City Council

“When a college accepts a designation as a Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Campus Center, that college takes an enormous step towards the brighter, better future Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed about.” by Rep. Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville)

“If you are a person of color [in Westerville] your median household income is closer to $65,000 than $90,000. Your son or daughter is less likely to graduate from high school or receive a bachelor’s degree. The poverty rate for people of color in our community isn’t 5%, it’s 18%.”

“…Diversity is not something we celebrate one day or festival or month out of the year but recognize and respect every single moment.”

“…At the end of the day we are all one community. And this designation from TRHT Enterprise shows that we are a community that is willing to have these difficult conversations, to admit to these uncomfortable truths and to do the work to build the best possible city for all of us.”


Cheryl Ward, LPCC-S, Director of Social-Emotional and Student Support Services Columbus City Schools

“…through this transformation process, our collective selves will transcend and give space to a stronger world. Where we value human life because it is human life.”

“Otterbein has been an authentic and intentional partner with Columbus City Schools, providing opportunities for our students, staff and community. Their commitment to ensure our students have a sense of belonging on this campus and are essential to the fabric of this institution, speaks to their belief in the value of their human life, their narrative, and the power of their contribution to humanity.”


Rev. Vaughn Bell, Board Member, Board of Education Westerville City School District

“It is truly our hope that this new TRHT partnership will be beneficial in helping us to create welcoming, diverse and inclusive learning communities…”

“…As we move forward, in truly, transforming our community, from not just a community but to becoming the beloved community.”


Elizabeth Brown, President Pro Tempore, Columbus City Council

“We know the statistics that the zip code where someone is born is often predictive of how long they’ll live, whether to one-year-old, 65-years-old or 95-years-old. We know it’s predicative of whether you’ll graduate college or perhaps serve time in prison. We know it’s predictive of what kind of life-time earnings you have…zip code is almost a nice way to say it; we are talking about racism that manifests every day in our communities.”

“I’d like to set a new standard for what a good education is. I have a four-year-old and a one year old, and by the time they go to college, I want them to be looking at measuring institutions not based on some statistics in the US News and World Report, but whether a campus is reckoning with big issues like racial healing.”

“…Otterbein looks at its students as its best resource, that they can really come together and lead in tough conversations because the university supports it. So, Otterbein is right for this ambitious work, because your students are your guide. I know that when I step foot on this campus and I am grateful to be a part of it.”

“Most of us in this room acknowledge that racism exists today, but to embark on a project of racial healing is not to say that racism exists but to look inward at how it exists. Not the legacy of racism, but the presence of racism. The present day racism that continues to divide communities, lead to disproportionate access depending on what zip code and skin color you are born into and saying we are not willing to accept that fate anymore.”


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