Feature Story

December 15, 2020 | By Cole Hatcher

The global pandemic results in lots of changes during 2020, including in-person and remote learning, more outdoor classes, and the Bishop getting a custom-made face mask. (Photo by Allie Hausfeld)

OWU in Review 2020

Ohio Wesleyan Students Continue to Succeed During Unprecedented Year

Words such as “unparalleled,” “unprecedented,” and “unique” became commonplace during 2020 as Ohio Wesleyan and the world adapted to life during the coronavirus pandemic. As we prepare to usher in 2021, here are some of 2020’s most unparalleled – and memorable – OWU moments:


  • Guard Claire Sterling ’20 becomes the 16th women’s basketball player in OWU history to reach 1,000 career points when the Bishops defeat the Kenyon Ladies on Jan. 15.
  • History professor Michael Flamm creates a Great Courses lecture for Amazon and Audible Originals that explores 1954, including the battle against polio, Red Scare, Brown v. Board of Education ruling, and birth of rock ’n’ roll.
  • Admission Director Laurie Patton ’95 earns the 2019 Special Thanks and Recognition (STAR) Award from the University Staff Council in recognition of her outstanding commitment and contributions to the OWU community.
  • Ohio Wesleyan creates the Rutherford B. Hayes Scholarship Program to support Paraguay’s best and brightest high school students. The scholarship celebrates 19th U.S. President Hayes – a Delaware, Ohio, native – and his folk hero status in Paraguay.
  • OWU officially launches two new tools to help prospective students and families to explore Ohio Wesleyan based on their interests and goals: An online CustomViewbook that students build themselves based on their interests and a narrated Virtual Tour featuring 360-degree campus images.


In February, students held the 2020 Mock Presidential Convention. Here, co-executive directors Ahmed Hamed ’20 and Mallorie Watts ’22 lead the crowd in celebrating the successful event. (Photo by Paul Vernon)
  • Ohio Wesleyan holds a two-day Mock Presidential Convention with students nominating Elizabeth Warren and Stacy Abrams as the Democratic Party’s 2020 ticket. OWU’s Mock Convention tradition, which includes students drafting, debating, and adopting a party platform, dates back to 1884.
  • Cirrus Robinson ’20 clears 5-6 to win her fourth consecutive indoor high jump title at the All-Ohio championship meet. Robinson also holds four national high jump titles – two indoor and two outdoor.
  • The OWU swimming and diving team breaks six school records during the 2020 NCAC championships. Setting records are Elizabeth Dickey ’23, Liam Dooley ’21, Emily Fulmer ’21, Colin Hawes ’20, Tyler Mansfield ’20, Katie Rozsa ’22, and Evelyn VanderVelde ’23.
  • Assistant professor of English Amy Butcher earns a 2020 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council for nonfiction writing, including her forthcoming book, “Mothertrucker.”
  • Thomas Palmer ’69 and Susan Palmer endow Ohio Wesleyan’s Global Scholars Program with $2 million in gifts. New Global Scholars are selected each fall in recognition of their passion for international issues and potential for high academic achievement.
  • Lorry Haycock Luikart ’73 and Jack Luikart ’71 honor the memory of her parents with a $300,000 gift to create The Ebb and Teena Haycock Public Art Endowment. Everett “Ebb” Haycock was an OWU Fine Arts professor for nearly 40 years, and Teena Haycock worked for five years as the secretary in the former Department of Speech and Theatre.
  • OWU Trustee Kara Trott ’83, founder and CEO of Quantum Health Inc., is selected by the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges for induction into its Hall of Excellence. Trott is the 12th OWU graduate to be inducted into the Hall of Excellence since it was created in 1987.
  • Ohio Wesleyan adds a new Quantitative Economics STEM major in the Department of Economics and Business to prepare students for careers in the 21st-century economy.


  • Women’s lacrosse midfielder Sloane Baumgartner ’20 earns her 158th and 159th career goals when the Bishops battled Denison, breaking the Ohio Wesleyan career record set by Carrie Williams from 2002-2005.
  • Professor of English David Caplan publishes “Into My Garden,” a new book of poetry that explores life in a Chassidic yeshiva, an institute for the study of Jewish texts. Jewish Review of Books later names the collection as one of its “favorite works by Jewish poets from around the world.”
  • In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio Wesleyan discontinues in-person classes and completes its spring semester remotely. The University also cancels a planned 3% tuition increase for the 2020-2021 academic year. (Students are able to return for fall semester, with both in-person and remote courses available.)


Ohio Wesleyan's newly renovated Branch Rickey Arena features new flooring, bleachers, air-conditioning, and more. (Photo by Mark Beckenbach)
  • OWU faculty create a free, 10-week online course, “We’re in This Together: An Interdisciplinary Exploration of the Coronavirus Pandemic,” available to anyone, anywhere. More than 1,100 people participate in the classes. OWU faculty also create a series of “From Our Perspective” essays exploring the virus and its impact.
  • Ohio Wesleyan announces a $4 million renovation of Branch Rickey Arena to outfit OWU’s home court with new flooring, bleachers, scoreboards, air-conditioning, and more. Work is completed in December.
  • Ohio Wesleyan partners with Case Western Reserve University to create an early admission pathway for students seeking a Master of Science in Management (MSM)-Finance from CWRU’s Weatherhead School of Management.
  • OWU’s Career Connection accelerates opportunities for students through a new Innovation Internship Program with Columbus-based Rev1 Ventures. OWU is one of two colleges selected for the launch of the program.
  • Ohio Wesleyan cancels a planned 3% tuition increase for the 2020-2021 academic year and reduces the price of 2020 online summer courses to support students and families during the ongoing pandemic.


  • The continuing pandemic causes Ohio Wesleyan to postpone its 2020 Commencement ceremony. To honor its graduates, OWU premieres a “Congratulations, Class of 2020” video with a YouTube Live event.
  • Cirrus Robinson ’20 and Courtney Owens ’21 earn All-America honors for the 2020 NCAA Division III indoor track & field season.
  • Classics professor Lee Fratantuono publishes “Roman Conquests: Mesopotamia and Arabia,” exploring Rome’s expansion into the Middle East.
  • OWU recognizes its 2019-2020 teaching award-winners: Barbara Andereck, professor of Physics and Astronomy, receives The Bishop Herbert Welch Meritorious Teaching Award; Sean Kay, professor of Politics and Government, The Welch Award for Scholarly Achievement; and Mary Anne Lewis Cusato, associate professor of Modern Foreign Languages, The Sherwood Dodge Shankland Award for Encouragement of Teachers.
  • Ohio Wesleyan appoints Maura Donahue as its vice president for finance and administration and treasurer and Karlyn Crowley as its provost.
  • Ohio Wesleyan announces it is naming its first student apartment building Bradford Milligan Hall in honor of alumni Kathryn Bradford Milligan ’83 and John Milligan ’83 and their families.


Students walk by the Black Lives Matter banner Ohio Wesleyan installed after announcing a new initiative to support diversity, equity, and inclusion. (Photo by Paul Vernon)
  • Canyon McWilliams ’20 is voted to the CoSIDA Academic All-America baseball team. A Bishop first baseman, McWilliams is a third-team Academic All-America selection.
  • Ohio Wesleyan launches a new initiative to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus, asking the campus community to “Stand Together and Work for Change.” The initiative is designed to “create meaningful and immediate change.”


  • Ahmed Hamed ’20 earns the North Coast Athletic Conference’s Don Hunsinger Award for 2020, recognizing excellence in academic achievement, athletics excellence, service, and leadership.
  • Cirrus Robinson ’20, OWU’s four-time NCAA Division III champion, is nominated for the 2020 NCAA Woman of the Year Award.
  • Women’s track & field athletes Tiffany Moore ’20, Cirrus Robinson ’20, and Chase Patton ’22 earn All-Academic recognition from the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
  • Eighty-four OWU student-athletes are named to the North Coast Athletic Conference Academic Honor Roll, recognizing their cumulative grade-point average of 3.50 or higher.
  • Ohio Wesleyan launches its online Safe Campus Guide to outline protocols and procedures for in-person classes in the fall. The guide is created by the Safe Campus Opening Task Force with input from public health officials.


Ohio Wesleyan officially welcomes its newest Bishops – the Class of 2024 – in August. (Photo by Reilly Wright ’20)
  • Ohio Wesleyan celebrates the arrival of its Class of 2024 and new transfer students, including its first virtual Convocation ceremony. The new class includes students from 30 states, 18 countries, and the District of Columbia.
  • DACA dreamer and first-generation college student Jose Armendariz Matute ’21 becomes the first Hispanic president of WCSA, OWU’s student government.
  • The Sport Journal publishes OWU swim team-related research authored by four alumni – Andrew Busch ’07, associate professor of Health and Human Kinetics, and 2020 graduates Morgan Barnard, Tyler Mansfield, and Liz Mayio.
  • Professor of Botany and Microbiology Laurie Anderson is the principal investigator on a National Science Foundation Grant to create online teaching tools aimed at advancing field ecology and data science.
  • Professor David Caplan’s poem “In a Hotel” is named one of the “10 of the Best Poems about Architecture and Buildings.” Also on the list are Alfred Lord Tennyson, Emily Dickinson, and Thomas Hardy.


  • Ohio Wesleyan is ranked among the nation’s best colleges in new publications by U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review. The U.S. News rankings also place OWU at No. 1 in Ohio for “Best Value Schools” and “Top Performers on Social Mobility.”
  • Nineteen student-scientists share results of their summer research during OWU’s first online and 28th annual Patricia Belt Conrades Summer Science Research Symposium.
  • Zach Shahrokhi ’18, a three-time All-North Coast Athletic Conference selection as an OWU golfer, is named the Battling Bishop head men’s golf coach.


  • Noah Green ’21 earns honorable mention recognition in the 2020 National Association for Music Education (NAfME) Student Composers Competition. His work, “Watercolors,” combines sound like “an artist might take two different pigments and combine them to make hundreds of different colors,” Green says.
  • Jack Foley ’21 is elected to a two-year term as the Undergraduate Archon Councilor for all Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) fraternity chapters throughout the United States and Canada.
  • The OWU men’s soccer team, under the leadership of head coach Jay Martin, is selected as a “Program That Inspires” by College Athletic Advisor. OWU is No. 4 on a list of 20 schools named nationally.
  • Lucas Cooper ’21 is named a semifinalist for the 2019 William V. Campbell Trophy, an award recognizing the best football scholar-athlete in the nation.
  • Professor of Botany and Microbiology Chris Wolverton earns a three-year, $449,921 NASA grant to continue his research into how plants respond to gravity. All of the work will be conducted at Ohio Wesleyan with the assistance of OWU students.
  • Professor of Politics and Government Sean Kay hosts a panel discussion with music legends Graham Nash and Serj Tankian and New York Times assistant Washington editor Thom Shanker.
  • Ohio Wesleyan announced plans to induct eight former Bishop standouts into the Athletics Hall of Fame and to bestow the Gauthier Award upon Catie Butt ’91 and Strimer Honor Award upon Charlie Hartigan ’75. It also will bestow Team of Distinction honors upon both the 1976 men's lacrosse team and the 2000-2001 women's basketball team in recognition of their extraordinary contributions to OWU athletics.
  • Ohio Wesleyan celebrates the 35th anniversary of the founding of The Woltemade Center for Economics, Business and Entrepreneurship as well as the legacy of 30-year Economics Professor Uwe Woltemade, who inspired the center’s name.


Professor Sean Kay passes away unexpectedly Nov. 13. His academic passions included rock music as an agent of social change. Here, he hosts a virtual panel on the topic with guests including musician Graham Nash.
  • On behalf of the university, President Rock Jones issues a statement affirming OWU’s commitment to the Paris Agreement and its efforts to address climate change. The United States pulls out of the international climate agreement Nov. 4.
  • Ohio Wesleyan hosts its third Women of Ohio Wesleyan (WOW) conference, promoting leadership, perseverance, empowerment, self-reflection, and awareness among Bishop alumnae. This year’s keynote speaker is Maggie Smith ’99, a freelance writer and editor whose books include “Keep Moving” and “Good Bones.”
  • Alumnus Jacob Kagey ’04 earns a National Science Foundation grant to support a genetics course he created at the University of Detroit Mercy. Zoology professor Danielle Hamill teaches the course at OWU.
  • Bobby Irwin is named the OWU women's tennis coach, joining the Bishops from Ursuline College. Irwin is a U.S. Professional Tennis Association-certified tennis pro.
  • Ohio Wesleyan mourns the unexpected passing of faculty member Sean Kay, an accomplished politics and government professor, global security expert, environmental protector, and rock ’n’ roller.


  • Three OWU students earn Gilman Scholarships during 2020 – Jeremiah Anderson ’23, Miko Harper ’21, and Megha Malik ’21. Awarded by the S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the scholarships support international educational experiences designed to strengthen relationships the peoples of the United States and other countries.
  • Ohio Wesleyan announces the Charles Thomas Scholarship in memory of the former student who was the only Black player on OWU’s baseball team in the early 1900s. His experiences and his grace inspired then-OWU head coach Branch Rickey to collaborate with Jackie Robinson in the 1940s to break Major League Baseball’s color barrier.
  • Ohio Wesleyan announces the gift of two original oil paintings depicting former OWU President and First Lady Frederick and Fidelia Merrick. Painted in 1835 by acclaimed American artist Joseph Whiting Stock, the portraits are a gift from Merrick descendant Barry Francis of Canada. His mother, Helen Frances Merrick, graduated from OWU in 1941.