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This family will tell you: One blind date started it all

Or maybe it was the scholarships. Either way, the result is 10 Buckeyes in three generations with 13 degrees and a love for Ohio State.

An older man in an Ohio State golf shirt and a younger man wearing a button-up shirt and tie stand side by side with arms around each other. They look relaxed and happy.

Jim Noe and grandson Mark Mangia met up on the Oval for a recent conversation. (Photo by Jodi Miller)

Liz Barton and Jim Noe came to Ohio State from their small hometowns in 1958 as recipients of full-tuition Bland L. Stradley Scholarships to study education. A blind date as juniors brought them together, and they married in 1962, a year after graduation.

What if Jim had stayed in Swanton, Ohio, and bucked the dream of his parents, an auto mechanic and housewife, that he attend college? Or if his closest high school friends had not rallied around the idea of becoming Buckeyes? What if Liz decided against heading to Ohio State from Mount Vernon, Ohio, as her older sister did?

We all have “what ifs,” moments when making a different choice would have changed our lives forever. Had Liz and Jim chosen different paths 64 years ago, they would not today be the matriarch and patriarch of a family of 10 Buckeyes who between them hold 13 degrees.

Mark Mangia’s college choice was obvious by the time he started classes in 2008. Not only his grandparents, but his parents, Michael Mangia and Laura Noe Mangia, had Ohio State degrees. Plus, he reasoned, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to study, and whatever he chose would be offered by the land-grant university 10 miles from his Gahanna home.

His sophomore year, Mark began dating Sarah Beale, who like him was active in a slew of student activities. They graduated on June 11, 2012, and were married six days later — on Liz and Jim Noe’s 50th wedding anniversary. Today, they have four children under 6 and busy jobs, Sarah as senior director of Fisher College of Business’ Leadership Initiative and Mark as senior advisor for philanthropy at OhioHealth.

Ten family members of three generations, all wearing Ohio State scarlet shirts, stand in a single line.

Within their big, joyous family are 10 Buckeyes and 13 degrees. From left, Jim Noe ’61, ’65 MA, Liz Barton Noe ’61, Michael Mangia ’86, Laura Noe Mangia ’86, Mark Mangia ’12, ’17 MBA, Sarah Beale Mangia ’12, ’14 MA, Matt Mangia ’14, Katherine Lucas Mangia ’15, Sara Watson ’21 and Emily Watson ’21. (Photo courtesy of Jim Noe)

I visited with Jim and Mark on the Oval this spring. Here’s a bit of our conversation.

Jim: My high school English teacher, our guidance counselor, came along and said, “Jim, you’re the top student in the class who doesn’t have a scholarship yet, and we have a scholarship for the top person in the class going into education.” I had thought of studying engineering. But that day, I replied, “I always wanted to be a teacher.”

Mark: College was never a question for me. It’s not lost on me that that’s not what every person in our country experiences. Thinking about where I’d go, it was always Ohio State. [He turns to Jim.] It’s always been interesting hearing your and Grandma’s experiences, and then my parents’ experiences as commuters in the ’80s, and how very different that was from what Sarah and I experienced living on or near campus for four years. Ohio State has grown and shifted through the generations to meet the needs of society at that time. It’s cool to sit back and hear the stories.

Jim: I earned my master’s here in ’65 and became a secondary school counselor in Cincinnati. In ’68, I was hired to be the first college secretary of Ohio State’s College of Optometry, overseeing all enrollment services. I was there from 1968 to 1984 and then came back a year later as the university’s associate registrar for five years.

Mark: You and Grandma, having such a strong value of education, that has been instilled in our family. My parents and I saving for college, not having loans, that helped Sarah and me start living the American dream right away. Instead of paying off loans, we were saving for a house and going to grad school. That has been everything for us.

Jim: I like to stay active with Ohio State. Every fall I assist in hosting the College of Optometry 50-year reunion. Before COVID, I worked Move-In Day. It was interesting to see these kids coming in with their families and, of course, now with trailers and all of their electronic equipment. I think I just had a suitcase. I also help with the alumni association’s scholarships, reading and rating essays. I’ve always felt being active in my community was my obligation.

Mark: I’m just realizing and reflecting on this now — I always had this example of someone who was engaged in the community, who was volunteering. And then landing here at Ohio State, where the message of involvement and paying forward is so strong, I was able to very easily take the message and hone these skills of getting engaged. You made it so that was not something foreign, but something you just did.

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