School History

Education Building

George Arps, who lived only a couple of blocks away from Ohio Field, might well have wondered how long it would take him to finish Dean Boyd’s dream of an education quadrangle. Little might Arps suspected the Education Building he assiduously fought to have completed might one day become a monument to himself—honoring his success at steering Ohio State to the very top of America’s institutions of teacher training.

Nearly four years after taking the reins of leadership, in July of 1924, plans and financing for the Education Building were finally put in place. Construction began early in 1925. From then on, passers-by on Seventeenth Avenue could see for themselves that George Arps’ College of Education was on the move. Still, the matter of the University School remained in limbo. It should have been increasingly obvious to everyone involved that joining the university and the Columbus school system was fatally flawed by differing visions, goals, and political mind sets.

Unfortunately, Depression Era economics would eventually change everything but the building’s location. The spreading depression not only impacted economics, but people’s careers and expectations. The University School building would have to be reduced from its contemplated 75,000 square foot size to something closer to 50,000. Something had to go, but what?  

When the construction drawings were sent to office of the University Architect by Dean Arps, the building had been trimmed of an entire wing. What’s more, nearly all of the first floor had been re-designated for elementary school classrooms, although no modifications whatsoever had been made in the building’s specifications, there simply wasn’t time for such details if the newly named University School building was to be ready for occupancy late the following summer.

Once the ground was cleared, workmen began excavating a giant hole precisely placed to mirror the still new Education Building at the south end of the quadrangle. According to Smith’s plan, the elevation, alignment, and exterior facade of the two buildings would exactly match—just in case the two ever needed to be connected. For days, men and machines ripped open the earth where, only a few years before, Chic Harley had been scoring winning touchdowns. Although little remained of its glory days as Ohio Field, the construction of University School would officially erase any evidence of the manly sports, military parades, and marching bands that once graced these hallowed grounds. Western Conference football had long since moved to the horseshoe-shaped coliseum along the Olentangy. Ohio Field, where men in funny trousers and leather helmets first tasted success in intercollegiate athletics was destined to new greatness. The Chic Harley era was would soon be only a memory. The time had come for Ohio Field to host legends of another kind. The stage was set for Boyd, Harold, Laura, and Rudolph.

In 1926, five years after being approved by the legislature, the Education Building was finally completed. This accomplishment alone might well have qualified Arps for having the building named for him during his tenure as dean, but George Arps would see far greater accomplishments during his tenure at the College of Education. One of them would be completion of Dean Boyd’s dream for a University School.

 

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1st Class To The Last Class

For young Sterling Smith, and his classmates, their first day at University School in September of 1932 would be a day they would never forget. The summer of 1932 had been one of great joy, Smith recalls, for that was the summer he discovered girls. He reinforces this point, perhaps to make certain the listener understands that what follows is best appreciated in context: When Smith arrived at the newly finished building at Woodruff and High Streets, he found it unlike any school he had ever seen. "The place was so new," he says with a gleam in his eye, "that it was filled with the odor of plaster and fresh paint." Then as his twinkle slowly blooms into a full blown smile, he adds, "And it was full of new girls. It was a day I’ll never forget."

One of the beautiful young women Smith no doubt saw that day was Jane Neff, a sprightly bundle of energy who likewise remembers that day over sixty-five years ago. Jane is less certain about how the place smelled that first day than she is of how it looked to the young girl from Columbus’ east side. "For one thing," Jane recalled, "everything was so colorful. What I remember most is those colors were lively, vibrant, and joyful. University School was, from the very outset, a very happy and charming place to be. We all loved it especially the green blackboards. We’d never seen anything like that in other schools." It was far more than the look of the building, of course, for over the years, every student found something special in the atmosphere at the school. "I instinctively knew that there was freedom and encouragement here to expand my world," Jane remembers today. "Here I would begin to discover my own creativity and to experience self-awareness and self-expression.
    
The Last Words
The last official University School event was the Commencement Ceremonies for the class of 1967. At the end of the ceremony, a young man arose to speak to his fellow students, parents and faculty. He knew it was a special day -- you can hear it in his words.

Commencement Address
 By Michael Ornstein, Class of 1967

"On this, the completion of our high school educations, we should examine those ideas taught to us by University School, so that, in spite of the School's closing, we can understand our obligations to them.

University School's contribution to education has rested in its recognition that education is fundamentally an individual process, and to attempt to make it anything else is to destroy its meaning and effectiveness. The School has encouraged individuality because it believes that it is both inevitable and desirable. But the School's philosophy of individualism and freedom does not hold that we are permitted to choose the basic circumstances of our lives. Rather, it recognizes that it is where we are born, and to whom we are born, that largely determines our talents, opportunities, and limitations. And while the School attempts to develop our talents and increase our opportunities, it realizes that individuality is particularly defined by limitations, and that we must understand both what bounds us, and what can liberate us, if we are to develop into free men. The school believes that by giving its students a self-perspective, we will become grounded in an intellectual and social perspective that will allow us to confront the world, in all its vicissitudes, and maintain our ability to rationally evaluate our own position and responsibilities, and not attempt to evade either. It is through gaining this ability that we learn to make effective decisions--decisions pertaining not only to the mundane things that surround us--but also to make the very few moral decisions that we face in our lives. The School has thus never given us freedom: it has presented us with the opportunity to make our own freedom: for man is not born into freedom, he is born into tyranny--the tyranny of ignorance--and it is only through the grinding accumulation of knowledge that he makes himself free.

It is thus unfortunate that the School should be closed in a time of increasing individual freedom and responsibility, for as the school worked to make us free, it worked also to make us conscious of our corollary obligation to take responsibility for our own acts--both as individuals and as a generation--and not excuse our errors to the inevitable workings of personal or collective history. It is not that it believes that we can escape our rich and heavy past, but rather that the history we inevitably make by the simple act of living should be ennobled by our knowledge and our freedom: for education is a revolutionary force in that it seeks to improve.

The University School has substantially improved the lives of its students and contributed to American education because it has taught the meaning and obligation of intellectual, social, and personal freedom. It has been closed by the act of a bureaucracy corrupted by politics. The institution is thus dead; the idea is not."

 

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Governor Who?

By Robert Butche

The war in Europe seemed to last an eternity. By May of 1944, Margaret Willis began to float few ideas to her class about possible commencement speakers—none of which seemed to spark much enthusiasm. "Not to worry," Winnie Fawcett may well have thought, "I’ll take care of it."

Winnie thought carefully about who she wanted as commencement speaker. Times were hard and she wanted to do something very special for her graduation. At the top of her list of candidates for commencement speaker was the most visible Ohioan of that era, Governor Frank J. Lausche, a man she greatly admired. The next day, Winnie was in the school office and on the phone, dialing the statehouse switchboard. When the wartime operator answered, Winnie innocently asked for the governor —unaware that even the governor’s office was terribly short-handed during the war. Moments later a male voice came on the line. When she inquired of the party on the phone if the governor would address her high school graduation there followed a long pause. The voice asked Winnie who she was and why she wanted the governor to speak at her University School graduation. Winnie explained herself so well that Frank Lausche immediately accepted her invitation—no doubt impressed at her resourcefulness.

Although quite pleased with herself, Winifred Fawcett said nothing about her conversation with the governor. When Margaret Willis brought up the issue of selecting a commencement speaker again the next day, Winnie pounced on the opportunity to share her good news.

"That’s all taken care of," Winnie, announced, "I’ve arranged for our graduation speaker."

Margaret Willis was dumbfounded, and very possibly a bit miffed.

"Who is this person?" Willis demanded sternly.
Winnie smiled from ear to ear as she announced, "It’s the governor."

The pregnant pause that likely followed would have provided Miss Willis sufficient time to take off her glasses, fold them nervously in her right hand—all the better to point at Winnie Fawcett. "Governor who?" Willis demanded to know in her sometimes faltering New England brogue.

"Governor Lausche," Fawcett reassured Willis—" the one downtown".
"Oh," we can imagine Willis responding, "that one."

There were of course complications—politics and protocol being at the top of the list. University policy has always been to never let the governor loose on campus without a representative from the administration. There were, after all, established procedures for such things—none of which appeared to cover Governor Lausche speaking at a University School commencement. President Howard L. Bevis chose Bob Gilchrist’s boss, Dean Klein, to represent the university administration.

By noon on June 7, Browning Amphitheater was a beehive of activity. Under the careful supervision of Wilbur Held, a Hammond organ was set up near the stage. Elsewhere, volunteers set up folding chairs and arranged decorations. Just before ceremonies were to begin at 3 p.m., Governor Lausche arrived. When he stepped out of his car, Frank Lausche would have seen the girls from the class of 1945 outfitted in beautiful white gowns—each carrying a dozen red roses. The boys, were dressed in their Sunday best suits, starched white shirts, and spit polished shoes—replete with large white boutonnieres in their lapels. It was, by all measures, a beautiful event in the making.

At the stroke of three o’clock, Professor Held began the organ prelude. Just as they had rehearsed so many times before, the Class of 1945 began to file on stage—accompanied not only by Wilbur Held’s stately music, but by darkening skies and thunderbolts from a fast approaching cold front. Within minutes Browning Amphitheater was at the center of a massive downpour. Margaret Willis’ attempts to announce that the ceremonies would be moved elsewhere were punctuated by thunder rebounding about the Oval. By the time everyone reached the back-up location, Campbell Hall, the girls’ elegant dresses were soiled, the Sunday best suits wrinkled, and the Governor of Ohio thoroughly soaked.

Without any preparation, Campbell Hall was neither decorated nor well lit for the graduation ceremonies. Nor was there a microphone to add authority to the Governor’s voice, or Elgar’s "Pomp and Circumstance for the processional. There was, however, a rousing commencement speech delivered with polish and flourish by a big man with flowing white hair, a wrinkled suit, a big smile—and a bigger heart.

The Governor spoke about the country’s struggle with fascism and the price of their freedom. He reassured them that there were better days ahead and that their experiences at University School would put them in good stead in life. Lausche’s address would be remembered as an upbeat speech at a time when few Americans felt positive.

When the Governor finished he received a standing ovation. Finally Bob Gilchrist and Arthur Klein passed out the Senior Statements, the University School equivalent of a diploma. With that, the Class of 1945 set upon life’s journey to the measured words of a personable and ambitious young man from New Orleans, Chuck DiCarlo—and a firm handshake from one the most popular governors in Ohio history. Winnie Fawcett loved every minute of it. So did Margaret Willis, and no doubt Frank Lausche as well.

Sadly, John Fry, James Roenker, Robert Stonecipher, William Taylor, Jack Havens and Thomas Thatcher were away at war that rainy day so many years ago, but they were surely in the hearts and minds of their classmates and teachers. Still are, too.

 

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Philospher Extrodinaire

The University School staff believed that curricular experiences needed to be emphasized at all levels. To accomplish this, they adopted seven Threads of Continuity and nine implied democratic values that were based heavily on Boyd Bode's philosophical underpinnings and Harold Alberty's practical approach toward creating a conducive learning environment.

  • Threads of Continuity

  • Developing social sensitivity

  • Developing cooperativeness

  • Developing the ability and zeal to utilize the method of intelligence in solving all problems of human concern

  • Developing creativeness

  • Developing skills in democratic living

  • Interpreting democracy

  • Developing self-direction

  • Implied Values

  • Developing communication skills and appreciations

  • Developing skills in measurement and the use of quantitative symbols

  • Developing skills in utilizing goods and services

  • Promoting social adjustments

  • Promoting health and safety

  • Developing vocational adjustments and standards

  • Developing adequate recreational outlets

  • Developing standards of personal appearance and grooming

  • Providing opportunities for working in the school and for the school, e.g. a sense of belonging


The threads of continuity gave structure to the overall curriculum design K-12. The implied values generated within this design were key elements in evaluating both the curriculum outcomes and levels of growth in children and youth at the various grade levels and in experiments with interage groupings.

At the elementary levels, these curriculum design elements served as a philosophical/theoretical structure for Group Studies. These were large units of work developed through teacher-student planning. Depending on the grade level, such studies typically involved two to three weeks of class work.

At the middle school level, the core class that continued such cooperative studies, called core projects, was scheduled for half of each school day. At the high school level, the core classes were one third of the day.

This curriculum design was University School's attempt to develop interdisciplinary work. In all of these efforts, art, music, drama, and dance were viewed as major curriculum resources in addition to the traditional subject fields.

University School's educational model was established on the progressive philosophical model pioneered by John Dewey at Columbia University's Teachers College. During the Depression, Dewey's ideas were modified, extended and enhanced by OSU's legendary education philosopher Boyd Henry Bode. Bode's work provided the foundation for University School's unique educational model, character, methods and traditions.

Professor Bode was no ordinary philosopher--for he was constantly reinventing his ideas and reexamining his values. At the time the University School philosophy was being hammered out in Arps Hall, Bode summed up his ideas on American Education as follows:

To the casual observer, American education is a confusing and not altogether edifying spectacle. It is productive of endless fads and panaceas; it is pretentiously scientific and at the same time pathetically conventional; it is scornful of the past, yet painfully inarticulate when it speaks of the future.

Boyd H. Bode,
The New Republic, 1930

 

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Ohio School of Air

From the outset, the College of Education needed a better way to reach Ohio Schools.  Almost from the moment WOSU took to the air in 1928, education college faculty, under the careful guidance of I. Keith Tyler, began to plan ways to use the bountiful free air time.  The plan was both simple and elegant.  The College of Education would go into the business of schooling by radio -- and it did so with an ambitious outreach program that included a wide range of teaching programs. University School faculty were at the center of these innovative radio programs.

 

Laura Zirbes was one of the first to champion radio as an elementary school teaching tool.  Soon was born a long list of scripted, dramatic programs -- and one very unusual unscripted program intended for elementary science classes.  Together, these programs were known as The Ohio School of The Air.

 

WOSU's elementary science teaching program was taught by Lewis Evans, University School's Elementary School Science teacher.  For some ten years, Evans regularly used University School students

as experimenters in the weekly 15 minute programs.  Evans talked about science issues while his students conducted experiments and demonstrations of that week's subject.

 

Jane Stewart , with support from I. Keith Tyler, pioneered radio as a classroom teaching device with her famous Buckshot series broadcast on WOSU in the late 1940s and 1950s.  On Buckshot, University School high school students were writers, actors, announcers and even soundmen.

 

Buckshot's most famous graduate, veteran broadcaster Bill McCormick class of 1954, claims Stewart's class helped him find a career.  So did it help Diana Baker, class of 1953, who enjoyed a distinguished career at National Public Radio along with her well known husband, Fred Calland.

 

Building WOSU

 

In the summer of 1928, a small cadre of students from the University’s Army ROTC Signal Corps finished assembling broadcasting apparatus at the ROTC Barracks. Outside, they fabricated a long wire antenna near the corner of Neil and Woodruff, suitable for broadcasting on a wavelength of 380 meters.

 

On the evening of April 24, at about 8:30 p.m., President William Oxley Thompson participated in the first broadcast from the University’s new radio station.

 

Under the call sign 4AB,WOSU transmitted from the twin towers above ( at Woodruff and Neil avenues ) until after the end of World War II.  In 1947, WOSU's transmitter  site was moved to the OSU Golf Course -- at which time the station also began broadcasting on FM. radio station WEAO (later changed to WOSU), transmitted the first radio broadcast to originate from central Ohio. Someone lucky enough to have one of the new radio receiving sets could have heard the broadcast as far as thirty miles away.

 

It’s not likely anyone participating that evening had any inkling of how important WOSU would become to the mission of the College of Education through its long-running Ohio School of the Air broadcasts.

 

WOSU transmitted from the twin towers above ( at Woodruff and Neil avenues ) until after the end of World War II.  In 1947, WOSU's transmitter  site was moved to the OSU Golf Course -- at which time the station also began broadcasting on FM.

 

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Ohio Field

About the turn of the century, OSU started to experiment with intercollegiate athletics. Needless to say, it was an immediate hit among students and townees alike. Many of today's legendary football Saturday traditions began at Ohio Field ( the University School site at Woodruff and High streets ).

 

One bright October Saturday in 1920, Tubby Essington donned his fur-lined hat, kicked chest-high through the assembled band, tossed his baton high into the sky and marched onto the field.  The crowd roared its approval--and made Essington forever famous.

 

The 1902 season looked promising from the start. It ended on a sour note, however, in a small town in Michigan called Ann Arbor when their guys beat our guys 86—0. Several hundred students and some curious onlookers accompanied the team on the trip to Ann Arbor that day. There was considerable drinking and rowdyism on the train coming home, but one of the OSU players, a freshman inspired by songs sung at the game, sought a quiet corner where he scribbled words on the back of an envelope. Being also a member of the OSU Men’s Glee Club, Frederick Cornell found it difficult to forget the singing of the Michigan fans. Before long, Fred Cornell had scribbled "Oh! Come let’s sing Ohio’s Praise. And songs to Alma Mater Raise." The words were penned to a melody known as Ancient Hymn that Cornell had heard from time to time at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Columbus. According to former OSU President Edward Jennings, the name Cornell gave the song, Carmen Ohio, means Ohio’s Song in Latin. The Men’s Glee Club sang it for the first time a few weeks later. Much to the surprise of freshman footballer Cornell, Carmen Ohio was an instant hit.

 

Home of University School

 

It was only a matter of time until OSU President William Oxley Thompson approved a plan to set aside university property exclusively for athletics. After all, Ohio State had plenty of land available, most of it woodlands to the north of University Hall. The site chosen for the football field, to no one’s surprise, was in the University Woodlands, fronting on High Street between Fifteenth Avenue and Woodruff. In 1903, work was begun to remove trees from the site. Just cutting down all of the trees was backbreaking work, but the bigger job was stump removal, which required plenty of strong men and powerful horses. Trees were shorn only about 60 yards back from High Street—just enough to accommodate the new football yard itself. To make access to sporting events easier from the main part of campus, a lane was cut from near the Armory along the western boundary of the area cleared of trees. That lane, which would later become Campus Drive, was little more than a muddy rut of a road. It ended about fifty yards short of the northern perimeter of the University’s property to provide a small practice area for the newly named Ohio State Buckeyes.

 

Although the Buckeye footballers faltered from time to time, interest in the game—and the excitement of intercollegiate athletics—grew steadily over the years. In 1904, E. R. Sweetland was appointed coach of the OSU footballers. That fall, OSU began playing intercollegiate football on what folks around Columbus would come to call Ohio Field. It wasn’t much of a football yard, being open to anyone driving their carriage along High Street, but it was far better than either the Oval or the Armory grounds. Small wooden bleachers were constructed on both sides of the playing field for both fans and players. In good weather, the games drew two hundred or more spectators.

 

In October of 1906, the Lantern published the words to "Carmen Ohio" so they could be sung by students during the band activities at football game halftime. History suggests that The Ohio State University’s Alma Mater was sung publicly for the first time about where Ramseyer Hall (The University School building) stands today. "Carmen Ohio" proved so popular that day that the words were printed in the Michigan game program a few weeks later.

 

By the time Ohio Field was completed, the city of Columbus had swelled to nearly 125,000 people, making High Street a major thoroughfare as far north as Arcadia Avenue. Even further to the north, a new community called Clintonville touted its proximity to the university and plans were made to widen High Street—perhaps as far north as Worthington.

 

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OSU's Greatest Architect

The University School building was the first design commission for legendary OSU architect Howard Dwight Smith.  Smith had just completed engineering work on the Ohio Stadium project when the Teacher's Education Building was approved by the OSU board of trustees in 1930.  Smith accepted the challenge, and in the doing he designed the most unique and beautiful building on campus. By the time Smith's ideas were reduced to drawings, the building had been renamed University School.  His original artistic rendering can be found in the Photo Galleries on this website.

 

Smith's architectural masterpiece was built on the northeast corner of OSU's Columbus Campus -- at the corner of North High Street and Woodruff Avenue.  Although the chosen site was part of the Education Quadrangle that included Arps Hall, the home of the College of Education, it had previously served as Ohio Field -- where Big Ten football had reigned in the era before Ohio Stadium.

 

In David Parson's stunning 1997 autumn photograph above, we see the elegant structure and attention to detail that was emblematic of the work of Howard Dwight Smith.

 

After the school's closing in 1967, University School was renamed in honor of one of its great Directors, John Ramseyer.  Today it serves as the home of the College of Education's Department of Educational Policy and Leadership.

 

America's Most Famous School

 

Time Magazine once called Ohio State's progressive laboratory school,

 "America’s Most Famous School."

 

Born in the despair of the Great Depression, the Ohio State University School grew to preeminence during the American progressive school movement launched by legendary education philosopher John Dewey.

 

University School earned its fame by providing a vibrant and compelling academic program in a laboratory school setting.

 

Throughout its thirty-six year history, the University School remained the progressive era’s most unusual school - in part by not being a teacher preparation facility and in part by its democratic decision making and student involvement.

 

No matter its origins in roaring twenties’ liberalism, the University School remained largely apolitical and ill prepared for its closing in the era of ill will  that accompanied the Vietnam War.

 

University School was opened in 1932 and its first graduating class was in 1935. In its 36 years of operation, some 1700 students and faculty plied its hallways and breathed life into its successful academic accomplishments.  The school was closed in 1967.

 

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Matters of Character

Both President Fawcett and Dean Cottrell are said to have remained stoic as the hearing wore on. Finally, when all favoring the closure of University School had spoken,  Chairman Fisher asked if anyone else wished to speak against the University'’s position.

 

For the longest time, no one in the hearing room stirred. Just as Fisher prepared to gavel the hearing to a close, an unassuming, middle-aged man rose to his feet. Slowly, he made his way to the witness chair. Although his face was very familiar to the dean of his College, and his president, the man was unknown to many of those present.

 

"My name is Paul Klohr," the witness said in a firm voice, "and I would like to speak against what has been said here today." With that, Professor Paul Klohr of the OSU College of Education began a point by point rebuttal of what had been said by both Fawcett and Cottrell.

 

By facing down his president and his dean, Paul Klohr knowingly put his career and reputation on the line. In the weeks and months that followed, he was increasingly bothered not just by the proposal to close the School, but by the way the decision was made and the cavalier attitude exhibited by those in power. Although some would question why he joined in the battle so late, it would be Paul Klohr, later joined by his longtime colleague and friend, John Ramseyer, who would risk all that was dear to them to right what they perceived as an egregious wrong. In the midst of controversy and uncertainty, Klohr and Ramseyer took strong leadership positions based on principles of academic freedom— just as Dean Cottrell had, years earlier in the Rugg incident (described in detail in the next chapter). The legacy of John Dewey and Boyd Bode persisted.

 

Public Clamor

 

By the early morning hours, a light frost had begun to crystallize on the Ohio Statehouse lawn. The darkness and calm of the Statehouse grounds were in stark contrast, however, to blazing lights and bustling activity across the street— at ------- The Columbus Dispatch

 

As the city quietly slept, giant presses slowly, but noisily roared into action. In a matter of minutes, newspaper delivery men began loading the Tuesday, March 30, 1965, edition of The Columbus Citizen-Journal into their trucks. It seemed a day like most any other day in Columbus— but it wasn’'t going to be—, not by a long shot.

 

As the sun began its climb in the eastern sky, the city slowly began to come to life. By 9 o’clock, the frost on the Statehouse grounds was shimmering brightly in the early morning sun. Along High Street, office workers, still bundled in winter coats, hurriedly made their way to work. Inside the Statehouse, in an overly heated hearing room, spectators began assembling for a public session of the powerful Ohio House Finance Committee.

 

By the time Chairman Fisher called the House Finance committee to order, around 9:30 A.M., the hearing room was nearly filled. On one side of the room were OSU president Novice G. Fawcett and Education College dean Donald Cottrell. Although Cottrell was little known around the State Capitol, Novice Fawcett was a frequent visitor—as befitting his leadership position at the state’s foremost university. Never before could anyone remember the OSU president having been called before a legislative body to explain a decision on what appeared to be a routine administrative matter. Although Dean Cottrell and President Fawcett publicly stood together on the issue of closing the University School, neither man fully trusted the other—as evidenced by both men having left oral histories which each sealed until the death of the other.

 

On the other side of the room were the Save University School ( SUS ) contingent and other supporters—many of whom had traveled to Columbus to attend the hearing. From the moment the hearing started, the Fawcett Administration was to some degree on trial—or at the very least, on the defensive.

 

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The Ohio State University School

1932 - 1967

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Laura Zirbes

Laura Zirbes, cira 1948, OSU Archives