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.

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.

Otterbein Receives Choose Ohio First Grant to Promote Diversity in Math and Nursing

Otterbein received a Choose Ohio First (COF) grant of $1,259,937 from the State of Ohio and the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) to support students from Ohio entering Otterbein University’s math and nursing programs with a focus on underrepresented groups in these fields.

“We believe firmly that students who come to Otterbein will find exceptional jobs in central Ohio after graduation and contribute to the excellence of the state workforce,” said Assistant Professor Kirk Kayser, Department of Mathematics and Actuarial Science.

Travel with Otterbein to Ireland in 2023

Alumni Travel

Join us for a trip to Ireland Sept. 19–30, 2023. Space is limited for this tour.

Register today with Otterbein’s official travel partner, Warther Tours: call 330-556-4535 or email

Upcoming Events

We’re always planning new and exciting in-person and virtual events for the Otterbein community. From lectures to happy hours and everything in between, you can find it by visiting

Lifelong Learning community Endowments Established

Generous anonymous donors have stepped forward to help create two endowments to support the Lifelong Learning Community (LLC) at Otterbein — one to assist with operations and programming and the other to support the LLC Scholars Award, which provides monetary assistance to Otterbein students during their final year of study.

In addition to the new endowments, the LLC recently dedicated a classroom at The Point as the Dr. Alison H. Prindle Lifelong Learning Classroom, to honor her lifetime commitment to learning and Otterbein.

For more information, call the Office of Institutional Advancement at 614-823-1305 or visit the Lifelong Learning Community Web page.

Thank You 2022 Donors!

Grace Rohrer Rymer ’48 has generously supported Otterbein through a gift to the Grace Rohrer Rymer ’48 and Richard Rymer Scholarship. She also continues to support the Otterbein Fund — Grace has been a donor for almost 40 years and is a member of our Cardinal Loyalty Society.

Pamela Hill Lorr ’75 donated a generous gift to support the Pamela Hill Lorr Theatre Endowment Fund, which helps students with short-term financial need and assists the Department of Theatre and Dance with expenses related to the practice of theatre directing for student projects and works and/or support of guest directors for masterclasses or seminars.

Thomas Bromeley ’51, chair emeritus of the Board of Trustees, recently made a generous gift in support of Otterbein and has been a loyal donor and champion for the University for 31 years.

The Campus Center Renovation Fund and the Otterbein Fund have received additional support from President’s Society member Robert Woodruff ’67, who committed $75,000 to advance these two important University priorities.

Donna Kerr H’71 continues to show her kindness and generosity to the University through her recent support in memory of her late husband and former president of Otterbein, Dr. Thomas Kerr. She recently contributed a generous gift to the Campus Center Renovation Fund, in addition to supporting the Thomas J. Kerr IV Scholarship, Donna L. Kerr Scholarship, and the Otterbein Fund.

The Otterbein Fund received significant support over the past year from Trustee Emeritus Michael Ducey ’70 and his wife, Pattie Black-Ducey. The Duceys have been loyal supporters of Otterbein for the past 36 years.

Otterbein is grateful to Richard ’54 and Carolyn Brown ’53 Sherrick for their generous support over the past year for the Otterbein Fund, along with the Sherrick Nativity Collection Endowment.

A Creche From Alaska
A soapstone and bone crèche
A Creche From Cameroon
A ceramic crèche from Cameroon

Otterbein Men’s Basketball team from 1991.

Otterbein men’s basketball alumnus Eric Wagenbrenner ’91 recently donated $10,000 to support the men’s basketball program. During Wagenbrenner’s tenure on the team from 1987-1991, the Cardinals had some of their most successful seasons, reaching the NCAA Division III Final Four and landing the team in the Cardinals Hall of Champions.

Find the Perfect Way to Get Involved

Alumni Volunteers

The Otterbein community has a rich tradition of giving back. You can see that today in the actions of our current students; just look at the great work they’ve done at the Promise House and Community Garden, to give two examples. But volunteering doesn’t stop at graduation. Each year hundreds of Otterbein alumni, family members, and friends make it a priority to share a precious commodity with our campus community and beyond: their time. Whether as a member of one of our alumni group boards, an admissions volunteer, a guest lecturer in the classroom, or one of a dozen other ways, the Otterbein community steps up for our students in incredible numbers. Now we’re making it even easier for volunteers — and would-be volunteers — to find the right opportunity for themselves.

Visit to find the volunteer role that suits you based on your interests and the time you have to devote to the experience.

We hope you’ll join us in supporting Otterbein students in ways that allow you to share the gifts of experience, energy, and expertise that each of you has to offer. Our students and the entire Cardinal family thank you!

Volunteer Opportunities

  • Reunion Committee
  • Admissions Volunteer
  • Career Development
  • Fundraising
  • Community Engagement
  • Special Events
  • Social Media Ambassador
  • Alumni Group Boards