2012 Distinguished Service Award

Alumni and other friends of The Ohio State University are a passionate lot. They remember their Ohio State ties, serving as ambassadors of the university around the world.

Randall B. Ripley



Since his initial appointment in 1967 as an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at The Ohio State University, Randall B. "Rip" Ripley has exemplified unwavering and prolific service to the university. After only two years as an associate professor, Rip was appointed chair of the department, a position he held for 22 years, leaving only to become dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences in 1992.

Throughout his lengthy tenure as a professor, chair and dean, Rip was widely known as an adept and accomplished administrator who knew how to get things done with both efficiency and skill. When he took over as chair of political science in 1969, his strategic decision making, key hires and junior faculty mentoring helped guide political science to the position of national and international eminence it holds today.

As dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Rip continued his steadfast focus on professional quality in all decision making, as demonstrated in his selection of department chairs who were proven leaders themselves. Rip mentored and supported the chairs, gave them a great deal of responsibility and expected a great deal from them in return. As a result, the college experienced improved department ratings, improved department governance and improved fiscal practices.

Rip's service to Ohio State also extends to the university as a whole. Notably, in the mid 1990s, he chaired the committee charged with reviewing the Graduate School. The committee's ultimate report laid the foundation for subsequent committee recommendations, helping to steer the school in important new and enhanced directions. He also chaired search committees for the deans of the College of Arts and the College of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, and for the director of the Mershon Center.

Randall Ripley's service to Ohio State is distinguished by its wide variety, far-reaching qualities and importance to the university, and the legacy of his efforts endures.

Elizabeth J. Watters



Elizabeth Watters has selflessly given both her time and personal resources to advance the university. Elizabeth has proven herself an exemplary member of the Ohio State family through her service as a member of the President's Club Advisory Board, a volunteer and philanthropic leader for the Ohio Union and through her impressive support and meaningful engagement with the Moritz College of Law, its students and alumni.

A two-time graduate of Ohio State earning a BA in Sociology in 1987 and a JD in 1990, Elizabeth was a student leader on campus. She was a member of Ohio Staters, Inc. and Sphinx Honorary, and received an Outstanding Senior Award as an undergraduate. At Moritz, she was managing editor of the Ohio State Law Journal and received the Dean's Special Award for her overall school contributions.

She continues her involvement as an alumna. Elizabeth was a leading force on the steering committee for the Sphinx 100th Anniversary in 2007, and was a generous donor to the campaign. In November of 2010, Elizabeth once again answered the call to serve as a leader in the Ohio Stater's 75th Anniversary.

Elizabeth is past president of Moritz College of Law's alumni society. She has served as a member of the college's National Council since 1992. Recently, she was awarded the Failer Award from The Ohio State University Alumni Association.

A partner at Chester, Willcox & Saxbe, LLP, she currently serves as president of the Columbus Bar Association and past chair of its Common Pleas Court Committee. In addition, she is on the Council of Delegates of the Ohio State Bar Association, the Board of Trustees of the Equal Justice Foundation, the Board of Trustees of the Ohio Council of Economics Education and is a past president of Women Lawyers of Franklin County. Elizabeth has received numerous awards and accolades for her service in these areas.

Ann "Tanny" B. Crane profile picture

Ann "Tanny" B. Crane



Tanny Crane has built a reputation as one of Central Ohio's most prominent business leaders. As president and CEO of the Crane Group, she has enabled this family-owned private holding and management company to reach new heights in many areas, including home building, real estate and investment.

Her expertise in business and management has also been integral in helping enterprises like Huntington Bancshares, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and Wendy's International, Inc. develop successful growth strategies.

Ms. Crane spends considerable time giving back to Central Ohio. She has been an outspoken advocate for education and community engagement, serving on boards at Action for Children, the Columbus Foundation, the Columbus City School Foundation and the Columbus Partnership. Her leadership on the board of the United Way of Central Ohio has been particularly noteworthy, as she has led many initiatives that not only strengthened the local community, but also created opportunities for its residents.

A graduate of The Ohio State University, Ms. Crane has been an avid supporter of her alma mater, including service on The Ohio State University Foundation Board of Directors. As a member of Women & Philanthropy, she has worked with women from around the country to become involved in the vibrant life of the university, helping encouraging philanthropy in its people and programs. 

Her contributions to the Fisher College of Business are extensive. In addition to serving on the Dean's Advisory Council for Fisher, she has provided substantial leadership to the Center for Operational Excellence. The center continues to enhance the educational resources at Ohio State, connecting business leaders, educators and students through special meetings, workshops and seminars.   

Ms. Crane has been honored twice for her contributions to the college, with the Fisher Distinguished Alumni Award (2005) and the Fisher Pacesetter Executive Award (2000).

John "Jack" Kessler profile picture

John "Jack" Kessler



Jack Kessler is one of Central Ohio's most noted real estate developers and community leaders. In addition to being the owner of the John W. Kessler Company, he co-founded and now chairs The New Albany Company, which spearheaded the development of New Albany.

A longstanding and engaged partner in the Central Ohio community, Mr. Kessler has devoted considerable time to improving the quality of life for its residents.  He is a current board member of The Columbus Partnership, Columbus Downtown Development Corporation and the Columbus Regional Airport Authority, organizations that work to strengthen the business and residential communities within Columbus and its neighboring cities. He has also devoted his considerable talents to projects with the Ohio Public Works Commission and Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Kessler's passion has also helped transform the area's arts scene. During his time on boards for the Columbus Museum of Art and The Ohio Arts & Sports Facilities Commission, he led numerous projects and initiatives which re-energized the Central Ohio arts community. He also led a highly successful capital campaign for the Wexner Center for the Arts, one of the premier arts facilities in the country.

A graduate and long-time supporter of The Ohio State University, Mr. Kessler has spent considerable time strengthening many facets of the university. As chairman of the University's Board of Trustees from 1994-1995, he was dedicated to moving Ohio State forward, making integral changes that continue to impact the lives of faculty, staff and students today.

Currently, Mr. Kessler serves on the board of the John Glenn School of Public Affairs. In that role, he has helped transform the school into one of the top public affairs programs in the country.

Mr. Kessler has been widely recognized for his outstanding engagement and philanthropy, including the Columbus Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Citizen award and induction into the Central Ohio Business Hall of Fame.

Keith Monda profile picture

Keith Monda



Keith Monda is well-known in the business world for his remarkable vision and his ability to transform companies. Over his distinguished career, Mr. Monda has guided companies such as Pfizer, J. Crew and The Timberland Company through tremendous growth. He later joined Coach, Inc., as its president and chief operating officer, leading the company through 10 years of success in the United States and around the world.

A two-time graduate of The Ohio State University, Mr. Monda has also been a consummate supporter of his alma mater. Since earning both his undergraduate and master's degrees in economics from the university, he has given guest lectures and served in leadership roles that have helped guide Ohio State forward.

His service on the University's Foundation Board has helped solidify a robust history of private support from its alumni and friends. His support of the College of Arts and Sciences, meanwhile, has been instrumental to the growth of the college, and to the success of both faculty and students.

In addition to serving as chair of the Arts and Sciences Advisory Board and the Arts and Sciences Campaign Committee, he and his wife, Linda, are passionate advocates for student scholarships. The couple continues to fund scholarships that provide need- and merit-based financial support for Ohio State economics students.

More recently, the couple established the Keith and Linda Monda International Experience Scholarships. Their significant gift will enable students to study abroad, helping them experience the world first hand by exploring new cultures and perspectives.

Trella Hemmerly Romine profile picture

Trella Hemmerly Romine



Trella Romine has spent the measure of her life improving both the local and greater Ohio communities. As one of the most iconic residents of Marion County, she is well-known for bringing passion to everything she does, whether it is serving as a conservationist, a historian or as a volunteer.

After running Hemmerly's Flowers in Marion, Ohio, for 30 years, Ms. Romine has dedicated her retirement to preserving the history of Marion County. During her time at the Marion County Historical Society, she has helped lead communications and operations for more than three decades. She has helped numerous authors publish books on local history, served on the society's Board of Trustees and initiated the creation of Rinker/Howser Resource Center at Heritage Hall, the home of the society.   

A loyal friend to Ohio State, Ms. Romine has left an indelible mark on The Ohio State University at Marion. She was instrumental in establishing the Larry Yoder Prairie Nature Preserve at Ohio State Marion, and has since served as a passionate advocate and volunteer of the preserve for more than a decade.

Ms. Romine's support has led to important research on the Marion landscape, and also helped the university preserve the land surrounding the campus. Her endowed scholarship has also helped support countless students studying science at Ohio State.
In recognition of her leadership and volunteer activities, Ms. Romaine has received numerous awards. Most recently, she received the 2011 President's Award for Volunteerism for her more than 4,000 hours volunteering at the Marion County Historical Society.  She also served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Ohio Association of Historical Societies and Museums for 10 years, including four years as president.

She has published a book, Day Before Yesterday, Vignettes of Marion County, Ohio, and is in the process of writing an autobiography.

Stephen A. Sterrett profile picture

Stephen A. Sterrett



Stephen Sterrett's distinguished career at The Ohio State University spans more than three decades. Before retiring in 2010, he spearheaded many important communications and community outreach projects during critical times in the university's history.

Beginning his career as a reporter and news editor, Mr. Sterrett took his love for writing to new heights when he joined Ohio State in 1978 as editor of the faculty and staff newspaper. Under his leadership, the newspaper received critical acclaim from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education in 1981 and 1982. Mr. Sterrett's success continued when he became director of news services for the Office of University Communications in 1984, receiving the Gold Medal Award for Public Information Programs from the same council.

In 1994, Mr. Sterrett spearheaded community relations for the newly established Campus Partners for Community Urban Redevelopment. In this role, he successfully coordinated many major redevelopment projects in the urban neighborhoods around the university's Columbus campus. His work not only led to a renewed partnership with the City of Columbus, but also garnered Campus Partners receive national recognition.

Shortly before retiring, Mr. Sterrett helped create the Weinland Park Collaborative, a partnership among more than a dozen agencies and institutions working to improve the Weinland Park community adjacent to campus. The project has been highly successful, thanks to his continued leadership and service.

Mr. Sterrett has received numerous awards for his service, including the 2001 Citizen Crime Stopper of the Year award, the University Community Business Association's Miracle Award and an award from the University Community Association for outstanding service to the University District neighborhoods. In addition, he was recognized by his alma mater, Heidelberg University, in 2001 as an outstanding alumnus.

James R. Tootle profile picture

James R. Tootle



James Tootle is one of The Ohio State University’s greatest advocates.  He enrolled at Ohio State as a freshman in the fall of 1961, and has been a dynamic architect of change at the university ever since.

A native of Columbus, Dr. Tootle studied history at Ohio State for both his undergraduate and graduate education. It was during this time that he began working as a graduate teaching assistant and an academic advisor for students who had yet to declare their majors – roles that would provide the foundation for a distinguished career in higher education.

After earning his Ph.D., Dr. Tootle joined Ohio State in 1972 as a college secretary in University College, where he helped design and teach a special section of the freshman survey course for student-athletes. Eleven years later, he was named assistant dean of the Colleges of the Arts and Sciences, a role he held until his retirement in 1999. He guided the college through countless academic changes and initiatives, which would later prove enormously successful in creating one the country’s finest arts and sciences programs.

Over the years, Dr. Tootle’s leadership fostered profound changes in the undergraduate student experience. He was a constant mentor to student leaders across campus, working with the Sphinx Senior Honorary and Romophos Sophomore Honorary, the Edward S. “Beanie” Drake Scholarship Board and the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. Dr. Tootle also worked on the Special Action Admissions Committee for incoming transfer students, and was a member of the Committee on the Undergraduate Experience.

Dr. Tootle has continued to volunteer his time and expertise to the university after retirement, serving on The Ohio State University Retirees Association, Sphinx Senior Honorary Centennial Steering Committee and the Ohio Union Council. He was instrumental in the creation of the new Ohio Union, and continues to lead personal tours and connect students with the traditions of Ohio State.

In recent years, Dr. Tootle has combined his academic background in American history with his long-standing interest in baseball to develop a career as a baseball historian, authoring two books and numerous articles.

Alec Wightman profile picture

Alec Wightman



Alec Wightman has been an outstanding leader at the Baker Hostetler law firm in Columbus, Ohio, for many years, most recently serving as executive partner from January 2004 to June 2008. Prior to that role, he worked as legal services partner for more than 10 years, coordinating the firm's national system of substantive legal practices and industry teams.

Specializing in a wide range of business and business-related areas, Mr. Wightman has represented many of the largest private and public companies around the country. He has earned a reputation as an exceptional lawyer, receiving a place in The Best Lawyers in America every year since 1997.

Since receiving his Juris Doctorate from The Ohio State University in 1975, Mr. Wightman has continued to give back to his alma mater. His support and leadership on the National Council of the Michael E. Moritz College of Law Alumni Society has helped the college enhance its educational program, ensuring current students benefit from the very best education.

Mr. Wightman's legal expertise in the healthcare industry has been instrumental to the success of the Wexner Medical Center. He has been an active member of the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute Board of Trustees since 1992, helping guide the hospital through substantial growth. During his 19 years serving on the James' Foundation Board, he helped raise more than $56 million for cancer genetics research.

In addition to his service at Ohio State, Mr. Wightman is an active member of the American, Ohio, and Columbus Bar Associations.  He currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio, as well as the Board of Trustees of Cleveland Rock and Roll, Inc., which operates the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Jon Woods profile picture

Jon Woods



Professor Jon Woods is the longest-serving full-time director of The Ohio State University Marching Band and an outstanding teacher and mentor in the School of Music. Before his retirement this year, Dr. Woods served the Ohio State community for more than 38 years, beginning as associate director of the band in 1974, and serving as band director for 28 years.

Dr. Woods helped set the standard for college bands across the country, and his leadership will leave a strong legacy of innovation and perfection, both on and off the field. As an expert on technique and show design, Dr. Woods earned a reputation for memorable halftime productions. Under his direction, the band was awarded the prestigious Sudler Trophy as the outstanding college band in the country, and has been invited four times to Washington, D.C., to march in presidential inaugural parades—a true testament to his vision. In addition to directing concerts within the School of Music and beyond, Dr. Woods is well known for implementing new technology, such as digitally charting band formations to enhance the visual elements of his shows.

Dr. Woods has been honored time and time again for his commitment to music and is routinely called upon to judge band competitions around the country. Most notably, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011 by the College Band Directors Association. Dr. Woods has also received the American School Band Director's Association Hall of Fame Award and a National Service Award in 2008 from Kappa Kappa Psi.

At Ohio State, he was honored in 2004, when the Ohio State College of Arts and Sciences awarded Dr. Woods with the Endowed Chair for the Director of Marching and Athletic Bands, the School of Music's first endowed chair. Earlier this year, the Arts and Sciences Student Council awarded Woods its Outstanding Teaching Award for his long-time contributions to teaching and mentoring students.

Nominations                    Previous Winners