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Campus & Community

Departing leader counts the ways Ohio State shaped her

As Ohio State Alumni Magazine Editor Mary Alice Casey moves on, she is grateful for the insights and kindness of Buckeyes.

Sitting on a low wall on a hiking trail in the woods, Mary Alice Casey and her family pose with their pets. Both of her grown children and their spouses brought their dogs for their hike, and her husband, an alumnus, wears an Ohio State T-shirt. The whole family looks like they’re enjoying themselves.

Spending more time with this crew is one aim of Mary Alice Casey, second from right, who will step out of the role of Ohio State Alumni Magazine editor June 30, 2024. From left — at a favorite Vermont destination — are son-in-law Alex Barengo, Stella, daughter Erin Casey Barengo ’13, ’16 MS, son Nate Casey ’12, Cooper, daughter-in-law Britt Batcho Casey ’14, ’19 MS, and husband Mitch Casey ’84. Joining the family more recently are grandson Archie Barengo and his pooch, Penny. (Photo by Mitch Casey ’84)

Every job should be a learning experience — a chance to grow, adapt and accept new challenges. That certainly has been true for me over nearly 10 years a editor of Ohio State Alumni Magazine, and I wouldn’t give up a single lesson. 

A hand-drawn illustration of Mary Alice Casey shows a woman with brown eyes, a warm smile and laugh lines that say something nice about her approach to life. The drawing is of her head and top of shoulders—she has brown eyes, short brown hair and a scarlet-colored dress.
           Mary Alice Casey, who became editor in 2014

This marks my 43rd and final issue of the magazine. The work has been invigorating, and in doing it I’ve learned a lot about your alma mater, you amazing alumni and, not least of all, myself. As my days as editor wind down — I depart at the end of June for more time with family, friends and personal and professional projects that I hope will keep my writing and editing sharp — I’ve been thinking about the most meaningful insights I’m taking away. Thank you, Buckeyes, for being my teachers.

First, life is not black and white. And neither is our life’s work. There is gray. And scarlet, thank goodness!

That reality calls on us to be flexible, willing to make room for others’ thoughts and ideas, and also confident enough in our own knowledge and abilities that we can effectively build what is ours to build. That may be a magazine culled from a disparate array of tales and details, informed citizens educated by a dedicated faculty or a research team made up of experts in myriad disciplines. To stand the many tests of time, we also must have the spirit and commitment to do it again. And again. And again.

While my husband, both of our kids and my daughter-in-law are Ohio State graduates, my Buckeye IQ has been bolstered in working with and writing about hundreds of talented and giving alumni who demonstrate every day the impact of a community united in purpose.

I’ve come to realize that the family that makes up our university today — alumni, students, faculty, staff, friends and fans who number in the millions — is carrying out the vision and dreams of the mere dozens of faculty and students present on the first day of classes in September 1873. Likewise, what we imagine today, future generations will bring to life decades, perhaps centuries, from now.

One thing is certain: Buckeyes will keep paying forward. Helping others as we have been helped is not unique to our community, but it is a movement at Ohio State, and we embrace the practice on a scale that’s hard to match. 

My colleagues across all of our campuses have shown me there is wisdom and worth in discussing, debating and committing to a set of values, as the university community did when it adopted its Shared Values in 2021. I see fellow Buckeyes working to live up to those aspirations every day. 

I’ve also had many personal epiphanies — or come to understand things about myself more deeply. For instance, I gain far more if I leave space to listen to others’ views before jumping in with my own. Sometimes my mind has changed before I utter a word; either way, I’m better informed. 

I see value in boundaries, a concept I would have struggled to define a decade ago. Today, I know it’s always best for me to focus on what is mine to do, and to do it to the best of my ability, while leaving for others what is theirs to do. Following this path, I can feel satisfied with my contributions and my efforts. Hard patches are just that: hard. But they help me learn and grow, and they allow me to appreciate when life is going well. When I can remind myself to slow down, breathe, look for the lessons, stop struggling — those are the hard patches that offer the most promise for a bright future. 

Much of what I’ve discovered has come from alumni we’ve written about. The teachers and learnings are too numerous to list, but here are some of my favorites from those who’ve graced our covers:

  • From Sophia, Sylvia and Starling Tolliver  — sisters who together hold nine Ohio State degrees  — I saw that a mother’s determination, students’ perseverance and an initiative such as our Young Scholars Program can make education accessible to people who will improve our world. All three sisters are amazing, and the latest news comes from Starling: After completing her medical residency in Detroit in June, she will join Yale as an assistant professor of dermatology.
  • From professors such as Rattan Lal, Lonnie Thompson and Ellen Mosley-Thompson, who arrived on the Columbus campus in the 1960s and ’70s to pursue graduate degrees, I learned that a thirst for knowledge, a commitment to teaching and, when the stakes are high and you’re confident in your stance, a refusal to take no for an answer — these things can move us toward a healthier planet and a more optimistic tomorrow.
  • From Gretchen Klingler, a first-generation college student who earned her degree after six years in the military, I came to realize that experiences such as serving our nation in Afghanistan and Iraq can strengthen your commitment to peace and broaden your views about what defines a community.

And lastly, and straight from my heart, I have become a better person, editor, writer and worker because of my time in this community of smart, dedicated, fun-loving colleagues and leaders whom I will always consider true friends. I’ve never worked with brighter, more committed storytellers than those at Ohio State. I’m going to miss them. And all of you.

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