Ohio Wesleyan had a busy 2016. We’re pleased to share the highlights, but first, let us take a selfie… (Photo by Spenser Hickey ’15)

OWU in Review 2016

By Cole Hatcher

As we prepare to usher in 2017, here is a look back at many of the moments that captured our imaginations and connected our hearts at Ohio Wesleyan in 2016.


  • Katherine Berger ’16 and Rhiannon Herbert ’16 earn an OWU-record-setting, top-5 finish in the American Collegiate Moot Court Association’s national championship. The future lawyers break their own record, a 17th-place national finish in 2015.
  • “Songs at the Center,” a weekly television show hosted by OWU faculty member and alumnus Eric Gnezda ’79, is picked up for national distribution by American Public Television, one of the largest distributors of public television programs in the United States.


  • Ohio Wesleyan holds its 2016 Mock Convention, with students approving a Republican Party platform and selecting presidential (John Kasich) and vice presidential (Nikki Hayley) candidates. OWU held its first Mock Convention in 1884 and since 1920 has conducted the event during nearly every presidential election.
  • The OWU men’s basketball team wins the NCAC championship, repeating as conference champion for the first time since the 1987-1988 team won four consecutive titles. The Bishops finish the season with a 25-5 record, the second-highest season win total in the University’s history.
  • The Department of Theatre & Dance presents the award-winning play “Artifice,” written by alumna Anne Flanagan ’87. The show marks the final campus production directed by professor Bonnie Milne Gardner, Ph.D. ’77, before her retirement. As a student, Flanagan starred in the first play directed by Gardner as a new OWU professor in 1985.
  • Classics professor Lee Fratantuono, Ph.D., publishes a new book on the Battle of Actium and its impact on Roman imperial history. The book is the first in a trilogy of Roman history planned by the prolific author.
  • Paul Schimmel, Ph.D. ’62, is elected as a fellow by the National Academy of Inventors. The honor recognizes academics who help to create or facilitate “outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and welfare of society.” Schimmel’s work involves interpreting genetic information to help develop new therapeutics to treat and cure disease.


  • Mark Mandych ’16 earns a highly competitive Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program grant to spend 10 months teaching English in Germany. Founded in 1946, the Fulbright Program is designed to increase mutual understanding between people of the United States and other countries.
  • Madeline “Maddie” Vroom ’16 is selected to present her research of songbird plumage at the American Society of Microbiology’s ASM Microbe 2016 in Boston. Vroom also earns a competitive ASM Student and Postdoctoral Travel Award to support her conference attendance.
  • Hannah Simpson ’16 wins first place in the regional National Society of Arts and Letters (NSAL) Musical Theatre Competition, earning an all-expense paid trip to the national competition.
  • Ohio Wesleyan creates four associate dean positions to support the student and faculty experience. The four part-time positions replace the full-time dean of academic affairs position in the Office of the Provost. The new associate deans are:
    • Dale J. Brugh, Ph.D., professor of chemistry, is appointed associate dean for innovation.
    • Ashley N. Biser, Ph.D., associate professor of politics and government, is named associate dean for faculty development.
    • Lynda K. Hall, Ph.D., professor of psychology, is appointed associate dean for student academic success.


  • Ohio Wesleyan expands its neuroscience program with a second major, computational neuroscience, and two new tracks within its existing neuroscience major – a behavioral/cognitive track and a molecular/cellular track.
  • Reilly Reynolds ’16 earns a 2015-2016 Charles J. Ping Student Service Award and Legacy Award mini-grant in recognition of her “outstanding leadership and contributions to community service or service-learning.”
  • Jemil Ahmed ’17 is honored by the Ohio Branch of the American Society for Microbiology for his research on the antiviral properties of turmeric. His research examines how an extract from the spice may aid severely ill animals.
  • Nate Axelrod ’18 is named NCAC Player of the Year, making him OWU’s fourth NCAC Player of the Year in men’s basketball in the last five seasons.
  • The OWU men’s and women’s track & field teams earn indoor titles at the North Coast Athletic Conference championship meet, making head coach Kris Boey the all-time leader among NCAC track & field coaches.
  • Kristen Lear ’11 earns the 2016 Graduate Student Policy Award, one of six awards given by the Ecological Society of America. While at OWU, Lear received a Fulbright Scholarship and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.
  • Breane Budaitis ’14 is selected from nearly 17,000 applicants to receive a 2016 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, including a three-year annual stipend of $34,000, a tuition waiver, and research opportunities as she pursues her doctorate.
  • Ohio Wesleyan appoints Dwayne K. Todd, Ph.D., as vice president for student engagement and success to oversee the Division of Student Affairs.
  • The Ohio Wesleyan community mourns the death of colleague, mentor, and friend Edward H. “Jed” Burtt Jr., Ph.D., professor emeritus of zoology. Burtt taught at OWU for 37 years and earned Ohio Professor of the Year honors in 2011 from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.


  • Google introduces 13 new female emojis, citing as inspiration an essay by assistant professor Amy Butcher, M.F.A., published in March in The New York Times. Butcher’s essay decries the lack of strong, successful women among existing emojis.
  • A new tradition is born when OWU concludes its 172nd Commencement ceremony with the ringing of a peace bell designed and cast by Gwen Kelling ’16. Kelling, now a professional bell-maker for The Verdin Company in Cincinnati, created the 200-pound, 21-inch-diameter bell to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the House of Peace & Justice small living unit (SLU).
  • Rachael Roettenbacher ’08 publishes sun and starspot research in the renowned science journal Nature, with OWU astronomy and physics professor Robert O. Harmon, Ph.D. Since graduating from OWU, Roettenbacher has earned two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in astronomy and astrophysics.
  • Ohio Wesleyan debuts online summer courses supported by a gift from David P. Miller ’54. The program’s six inaugural courses are available to OWU students anywhere in the world, enabling many students to participate in OWU Connection-related travel experiences while they also complete Ohio Wesleyan coursework taught by OWU faculty.


  • Ohio Wesleyan receives a $600,000 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to establish the High School Youth Theology Institute, a summer program to prepare high schoolers to become Christian leaders for a global society.
  • OWU shares in a three-year $450,000 National Science Foundation grant to support undergraduate students collaborating in neuroscience research at four private liberal arts institutions in Ohio and Indiana.
  • Ohio Wesleyan appoints Erin Fletcher, M.A., as director of the Richard M. Ross Art Museum and campus galleries. She replaces Justin Kronewetter, M.F.A., who served in the role for nearly 15 years before retiring in May.


  • Christopher Dobeck ’18 is selected to participate in a televised CNN forum during the Republican National Convention. The northeast Ohio resident also served as a regional and state chair for OWU’s Mock Convention in February.
  • Ohio Wesleyan receives a $45,000 grant from the Great Lakes Colleges Association’s Global Crossroads Initiative to create a Global Studies Institute. The new institute will sponsor seminars on international topics, support international activities across campus, and build collaborative programming with GLCA Global Liberal Arts Alliance partners.
  • New research by Cody Kent ’15, a doctoral student at Tulane University, and his OWU mentor, the late Edward H. “Jed” Burtt Jr., is called a “tour de force” in ornithology. Their research into bacteria and bird feathers is published in The Auk: Ornithological Advances journal.
  • The Fiske Guide to Colleges 2017 includes Ohio Wesleyan on its new list of the “Best and Most Interesting Colleges” in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain.


  • OWU welcomes its Class of 2020, including students from 36 states and 12 nations.
  • OWU’s Connect Today, Create Tomorrow campaign reaches $110 million in gifts and commitments with the announcement of a multimillion-dollar estate commitment from Delaware residents Joe and Linda Diamond. Their gift will support scholarships for students majoring in the arts, sciences, or humanities.
  • Evan Bai ’11 is the co-author of a new article in Nature Genetics on brain tumors. Bai, Ph.D., earned his doctorate in genetics from Yale University in May and now is working as a research scientist in Boston.
  • Andrew Wilson ’13 earns the Jack K. & Gertrude Murphy Award from The San Francisco Foundation in California. The award includes a $40,000 prize to support Wilson in earning a Master of Fine Arts.
  • The Princeton Review’s new guidebook, The Best 381 Colleges: 2017 Edition, lists Ohio Wesleyan among the nation’s “Best” and “Best Midwestern” colleges.


  • On Sept. 2, the OWU men’s soccer team retires No. 19 in honor of Luke Gabbert, who died in February. The Bishops win the game in double overtime before a record crowd of 1,600 on hand to celebrate Gabbert’s life.
  • Ohio Wesleyan expands its academic offerings for fall of 2017 with new majors in Data Analytics and Nutrition and new minors in Data Analytics and Data in Society.
  • Former Central Intelligence Agency employee Edward Snowden speaks on campus via video conference about his decision to copy and share classified information in 2013. He speaks as part of the 2016-2017 Sagan National Colloquium, an exploration of the growing importance of “Data in Our Lives.”
  • Ohio Wesleyan is recognized among 2017’s Top 100 “Best National Liberal Arts Colleges” by U.S. News & World Report and the top U.S. colleges and universities by The Wall Street Journal / Times Higher Education.


  • Ohio Wesleyan dedicates The Dittrick House, its first Small Living Unit “SLUplex” and first new student housing construction in 50 years. The building is named in recognition of Doug Dittrick ’55.
  • The Woltemade Center for Economics, Business and Entrepreneurship launches a competitive Accounting Fellows program for fall 2017 to provide students with new opportunities to develop accounting, leadership, critical-thinking, and communication skills beyond the classroom.
  • Ohio Wesleyan earns a one-year, $25,000 planning grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to help the university assess and enhance its historic commitment to diversity and inclusion. OWU will explore ways to add diversity to the faculty and add even more diverse perspectives into the curriculum.
  • Alumna Carolyn Root Deibel honors her late husband, Terry Lattau Deibel, by creating an endowed fund to support faculty travel. The Deibels both were members of the Class of 1967.
  • Ohio Wesleyan appoints Lauri Strimkovsky, M.B.A., as vice president for finance and administration and treasurer.


  • History professor Michael W. Flamm, Ph.D., publishes “In the Heat of the Summer: The New York Riots of 1964 and the War on Crime.” The book examines the 1964 shooting death of a 15-year-old African American boy by a white, off-duty New York City police officer igniting the first of the “long, hot summers” of protests.
  • Ohio Wesleyan awards honorary degrees – the University’s highest honor – to James F. Dicke II, chairman and chief executive officer of Crown Equipment Corp., and to author, art patron, and retired lawyer Raymond W. Merritt Sr. Dicke is awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree and Merritt an honorary Doctor of Humanities.
  • Ohio Wesleyan adds majors and minors in Middle Eastern studies and social justice for fall 2017.
  • Ohio Wesleyan mourns the death of 28-year chemistry professor Kim Lance, Ph.D. Lance is remembered for his kindness, passion for teaching, and dedication to advancing green and sustainable chemistry.


  • Sarah Fowler ’17 is named Ohio Women's Division III Runner of the Year for the second year in a row by the Ohio Intercollegiate Cross Country Coaches Association. Fowler’s fifth-place finish at the NCAA Division III cross country championship meet in November is the best showing ever by an OWU woman at a national championship meet, surpassing the 19th-place finish by Carol Corbett in 1982. 
  • Tim Shadoan ’17 becomes a D3football.com second-team all-region selection for the second straight season. He was the only player in the conference to return both a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown this fall, and he led the Bishops in scoring with 49 points. 
  • Politics and government professor Sean Kay, Ph.D., publishes his new book, “Rockin’ the Free World!: How the Rock & Roll Revolution Changed America and the World,” featuring interviews with musicians, industry insiders, journalists, and activists including Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, Grammy winners, and others.