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2017 interview with Vernon R. Alden, Ohio University's 15th president. Dr. Alden died on Monday June 22, 2020. He was 97 years old.

Watch: Fond Memories With Ohio University’s Former President Alden

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Vernon R. Alden, the 15th president of Ohio University, died Monday at the age of 97 from complications of pneumonia.  He was living in Boston.

Vernon R. Alden Library

Alden, for whom the main university library is named, was president of OHIO from 1962-1969. He and his administration expanded research and academic programs, established the honors college, and doubled both enrollment and staff. He was also involved in revitalizing the economy in southeast Ohio.

“The initiatives that Dr. Alden led have benefited generations of students and will continue to do so,” said Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis in the university’s official announcement.

During his tenure, Alden also initiated the re-routing of the Hocking River and construction of the Convocation Center.

According to his obituary, Alden “was an expert at gently twisting arms.” Through his advocacy, wealthy donors helped finance the school’s growth at a time when public schools traditionally relied on public funds.

Alden’s Investment

The 1960’s were a turbulent time for the U.S. and Ohio University was not immune to what was happening around the country. During a 2017 interview, Alden recalls, “We always believed in the opportunity for Black and White students. And we always emphasized that we had equal opportunity for everybody. I tried to encourage them to get to know people well of both races.” It was during this time that he met a student who would eventually become a president of Ohio University.

Dr. Roderick McDavis

Dr. Roderick McDavis says he came to Athens because of one of Alden’s efforts to recruit more Black students.

“One of my fondest memories was President and Mrs. Alden attending one of our fraternity’s social events and taking a group picture with my fraternity brothers and me.  I truly admired President Alden’s leadership of the university during a very difficult time in Ohio University’s history.”

McDavis served as Ohio University’s 20th president from 2004 -2017 and says Alden was one of his role models, “He visited campus numerous times and I had an opportunity to visit him in his home. Dr. Alden was a great President for Ohio University and a better person!”

A number of OHIO community members have expressed similar sentiments and their condolences on Facebook and Twitter:

 

A screenshot of a Facebook comment on Ohio University's post about the death of Vernon R. Alden.
Comments left on Ohio University’s Facebook post

A screenshot of a Facebook comment on Ohio University's post about the death of Vernon R. Alden.

Love of Learning Lives On

In a previous interview, Dr. Alden said it took some convincing to have a new library built on campus, “when I gave my inaugural address, I said the number one priority is to have a new library. Year after year we presented it in our capital plan to the legislative body and it would always fall off the end of the table because they would say, ‘you have a library already.’ They didn’t understand it was not adequate for the type of university we were becoming.”

The library he envisioned opened in 1969, just as he was leaving his role as the university’s leader. The Board of Trustees surprised the outgoing president by naming the library it the Vernon R. Alden Library. According to Ohio University’s archives, staff, students, and community members moved 550,000 volumes from the old library (now Chubb Hall) to the new building.

Moving books by tractor to Ohio University's Alden Library, 1969

Neil Romanosky, dean of the University Libraries, says it is appropriate that Alden’s name is synonymous with learning, “Dr. Alden’s leadership, vision, and love of learning will live on for generations at the University. We at the Libraries are especially grateful for Dr. Alden’s strong belief in the library as the academic and cultural heart of the institution.”

Vernon R. Alden’s wife, Marion Parson, died in 1999; they had been married since 1951. He is survived by his four children and eight grandchildren.

 

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