George Voinovich
George Voinovich

Voinovich Remembered in SE Ohio for School of Leadership and Public Affairs, Fiscal Policies

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ATHENS, OH — Those who were affected by the life of former Ohio Governor and U.S. Senator George Voinovich have spent this week remembering his impact and reflecting on what his legacy will be across the state.

Representatives from the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs on Ohio University’s campus have been mourning the loss of their namesake.

“The Senator was a remarkable public servant who used his significant intellect, experience and compassion for humanity to represent our great state,” a statement on the school’s website reads. “His passion for his community and state were only surpassed by his commitment and love for his family. Senator Voinovich’s legacy will continue through the accomplishments of the Voinovich School, and we will act as stewards to preserve and honor his memory and place in history through his papers at his Alma Mater.”

A journalist who followed Voinovich’s political career beginning with the tenure as Cleveland’s mayor, which began in 1980, believes the the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs will be his lasting impact in Southeastern Ohio.

“His association with OU and the Voinovich School will be a continuing legacy thing because of the fact of the kinds of projects and programs the school undertakes,” former Cleveland Plain Dealer reported and current columnist, as well as OU journalism professor Tom Suddes said. “It will keep his name alive in Southeast Ohio, and statewide, because of the work the school does.”

As a way to honor the Ohio University alumnus (Class of 1958), the Board of Trustees first bestowed the honor of renaming the Center for Public and Environmental Affairs to the George V. Voinovich Center for Leadership and Public Affairs in December 1998. In April 2007, the name was updated to its current form when it became “the first multidisciplinary school at Ohio University.”

The school continues to take on projects dealing in areas Voinovich had a passion for, including energy and environment policy.

After his political career came to an end in 2010 when he opted not to seek reelection to the Senate, he remained involved with the school. Recently, he spoke to approximately 50 Ohio University students in October 2015 as part of a candid discussion with WOUB Public Media regarding a variety of topics, including what it means to be a leader and his take on public policy.

For those beyond the OU campus, Suddes believes Voinovich will still be remembered for some time as his fiscally-conservative approach to governing aligned with a majority of Southeast Ohio residents. The policies of pinching pennies in the hopes of saving money and spending money in new, efficient ways appealed to the “thrifty” approach taken in the personal lives of many in the region.

“I think what Voinovich did as governor was to reinject the notion that, as much as anything, government…is really about management, it’s about delivering services at a reasonable price to people that need or want those services to be delivered,” he said. “I think this part of the state, which has many needs for historical reasons political, economic and financial, will benefit from that approach to delivering services.”

These policies helped him gain popularity in the region. Though he did not take every county from Southeastern Ohio in his initial 1990 campaign for governor, he would come back in his 1994 reelection campaign and pick up the previously blue counties in one of the most successful campaigns in Ohio’s political history.

Voinovich died in his sleep at his home in Cleveland this past Sunday at the age of 79, a few weeks shy of his 80th birthday.

Public viewings were held Wednesday and Thursday, while a funeral mass was conducted Friday at the Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church in Euclid.