For many Buckeye scholarship students, the ’Shoe fit
Residents of the Ohio Stadium Scholarship Dorm gained access to college, work experience and lifelong friendships.
“I didn’t really know anyone who had even gone to college, so I had no idea what to expect,” says Barbara Letcher ’79, ’90 JD. “But from the start, I felt like I was part of something. The beauty of living in the stadium was you had the comfort of that community.”
Letcher had the added challenge of being one of the first female residents when the dorm went co-ed in 1975. But the transition was so smooth, her sister moved in two years later. After graduation, like many fellow residents, Letcher joined the Stadium Scholarship Alumni Society, a tight-knit group of graduates who enjoy supporting current students and staying in touch with one another. She was the group’s president in 1999.
That also was the year Ohio Stadium’s massive renovation began, leading to relocation of the Stadium Scholarship Program, first to Mack Hall and then to Scholars House East and West. The program continues to thrive there under its original mission, currently serving about 100 students.
And while the rooms of today’s scholars may not be in iconic Ohio Stadium, they’re a significant upgrade from the original barracks-style rooms that accommodated 20 men in bunk beds. Throughout the dorm’s nearly seven decades, few of the rooms had windows, prompting residents to use creativity to catch the plays on game days. That ended with a renovation in the 1980s that cut off their access to stadium ramps.
During her two-year stadium residency beginning in 1988, Paula Santa ’93 recalls, a season football pass cost students $40.
“The first game I went to was Ohio State vs. LSU in 1988,” says Santa, now vice president of the Stadium Scholarship Alumni Society. “Ohio State was down 33–20 with four-and-a-half minutes left, so I went back to my room. I remember hearing what sounded like a horrible thunderstorm. I found out we came back and won the game. I’ve never left a game early since.”
Game days were especially busy for Greg Daniel ’76, a stadium resident from 1971 to ’75 and the first blind member of the Ohio State marching band. With Braille books scarce and assistive technology nonexistent, Daniel often had help from dorm mates who served as “readers” to assist in his studies.
“Everyone accepted me. I loved every minute I spent in that stadium,” Daniel says. “I marched in the alumni band for years. Every time I felt that sun and the shadow of where the dorms were, I knew I was home again.”