Office of the President
A Forward Legacy
As you know, the spirit of Woody Hayes burns bright at Ohio State. Never more so than this week, when he would have celebrated his 100th birthday and the University community is celebrating the legacy and impact of Anne and Woody Hayes.
Nearly everywhere you look, the campus teems with an unmistakable drive to “pay it forward.” Just last weekend, thousands of our students took to the dance floor for our beloved annual dance marathon, BuckeyeThon. In the course of two days, they raised a record amount for Nationwide Children’s Hospital – $608,623.29 to be exact.
I cannot think of a more marvelous tribute to one of Ohio State’s greatest ambassadors – a man whose life was defined by generosity.
Although most people knew him as Coach Hayes, Woody was, first and foremost, a devoted teacher and friend. On the field, Woody taught his players the importance of discipline and dedication. He asked each and every player to put his heart into the team and academics. But it was his time off the field that is truly most inspiring.
To those who knew Woody, he was “Professor” Hayes. He mentored students, volunteered at local hospitals, and raised money for student scholarships and cancer research.
When protests broke out on campus over the legitimacy of war, Woody quietly shared personal stories of the friends lost and valor found in his five years of service during World War II. If his students were struggling, he would sit down at a wooden desk and help them solve complex math problems or find the inspiration for a psychology paper. And if he saw a stranger in tears, he would lend an open ear and a helping hand.
But of all of these memorable moments, one is particularly poignant: his Commencement speech in the spring of 1986. Under the lights of St. John Arena, Woody stood before row after row of graduates and spoke about the importance of personal responsibility and paying it forward. His voice broke, and tears rolled down his eyes as he talked about his love for Ohio State, saying simply, “Today is the greatest day of my life.”
Over the years, Woody and Anne Hayes changed many lives and championed countless causes. Their friends, family, and pupils will gather on February 15 to cap off a week-long celebration of these remarkable individuals. Their legacy of paying forward – now, an indelible tradition— continues to guide the Ohio State community these many decades later.