Authors@Alden: A Conversation with President Emeritus Dr. Charles J. Ping

Ohio University President Emeritus Dr. Charles J. Ping speaking at his inauguration ceremony, 1976.
Ohio University President Emeritus Dr. Charles J. Ping speaking at his inauguration ceremony, 1976.

On Thursday, December 5th at 7 p.m., the Libraries is proud to host President Emeritus Dr. Charles J. Ping in the Authors@Alden series. Dr. Ping will discuss his new book, “A Conversation about Ohio University and the Presidency, 1975-1994,” which details his nationally acclaimed 19-year tenure as Ohio University President. 

The book, jointly published by Ohio University Libraries and the Ohio University Press, draws upon a number of recorded conversations between Dr. Ping, Dr. Samuel Crowl, current trustee professor emeritus, former chair of the Faculty Senate and dean of University College, and Doug McCabe, the Libraries’ curator of manuscripts.

In the introduction, Crowl recalled the first time he ever heard Dr. Ping speak. It was a radio broadcast covering Ping’s appointment as president, and he quoted a line of Shakespeare. “’Sweet are the uses of adversity,’” Dr. Ping said.

While Crowl, an English professor, was decidedly pleased, his enthusiasm was reserved — OHIO was in a turbulent period of its history, and Dr. Ping had a number of obstacles to overcome.

But Dr. Ping arrived on campus with a fresh perspective. Eventually, that outlook matured into a comprehensive vision for the University; a vision realized not through rhetoric, but meticulous planning and process.

Dr. Ping, at once gracious and unwavering in adherence to established objectives, overhauled the university system to reward innovation and facilitate cooperation among faculty and staff. He developed plans, defined goals, and then stepped aside so that departments could effectively act on them.  

Dr. Ping’s unique and humble leadership fanned the flames of a dynamic, empowered community. As Crowl said: “Dr. Ping did not save the University; he got the University to save itself — a far harder task.”

The President’s knack for community building didn’t stop with the faculty. He grew the student retention rate to 90 percent, emphasized inter-disciplinary education, and took care to foster international friendships. For instance, he went to great lengths to honor Chubu University’s request when they asked for pairs of College Green squirrels for their Japanese campus.

“You can’t imagine how complicated it is to ship squirrels,” Dr. Ping said.

Upon news of his resignation in 1994, the Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial wrote: “To say that Ping will leave Ohio University in a better state that he found it does a disservice to a record that is nothing short of remarkable.”

The story of Dr. Ping’s tenure at Ohio University, considered by many to be one of the greatest success stories of higher education, is indeed remarkable. To understand it is to better understand Dr. Ping’s enduring legacy — the strength of the OHIO community.

The public is invited to attend this conversation with Dr. Ping, which takes place in the 1951 Lounge of the fourth floor of Alden Library on Thursday, December 5th at 7 p.m. Light refreshments will be served. A live webcast of the event is available on the Authors@Alden page.