The concept of ‘pay it forward’ is something that is very familiar to Ohio State fans thanks to people like Woody Hayes. For most of us, paying it forward takes the form of donations, in the form of time, money, goods, or a combination of these, to various causes and groups that are important to us. For many of us, that includes donating to Ohio State so that the university can continue to grow and impact that lives of future students for years to come.
This week was graduation at the University of Sydney and several of the students from my department received their degrees today, including the student I supervise who received his Honours Degree; Honours is a weird Australian thing which is an extra year on top of a Bachelors without exactly being a Masters. As part of the graduation ceremony speeches, various higher-ups in the university encouraged the new graduates to continue being involved in the university by coming back to visit, joining an alumni society, and of course with strong hints that they should donate. This led to a discussion afterwards between several people in the department on the concept of donating to the university where you got your degree. As I have noted in a previous article, alums in Australia do not donate to their university anywhere near as often, or as generously, as those in the United States. In general, the attitude in Australia is to view universities as more of a service provider with the students as their customer; I find this incredibly ironic considering that universities in the US operate far more like businesses than those in Australia. For whatever reason (I speculate on a possible reason in my previous article) students at Australian universities do not seem to develop the emotional connection to their alma mater that those in the States develop.
Nobody that I talked to today had any plans to donate the University of Sydney in the future, even though they enjoyed their time here. I even proposed a hypothetical question, if the person were to somehow win the lottery (or have a great day in the casino or inherit a large sum of money, the means don’t really matter), would they donate to the university. While pretty much everyone said that they would donate money to some groups and causes, almost nobody said that the university would be one of the recipients of said donations. I still find this rather strange but reflecting on that isn’t the point of this article. Instead, I wish to propose the same hypothetical question to you readers. Lets say that you won big in the lottery, for the purpose of nice, round numbers lets say you end up with $100 million after taxes. How much of that money would you donate to Ohio State and would you direct that money in any specific way? I share my answer below and I encourage others to share what they would do in the comments.
Since this is a blog dedicated to OSU sports, it makes sense that I would start my discussion with donations I would make to Ohio State athletics. When people mention Ohio State sports, the first thought that probably comes to mind is football for obvious reasons. While I am a huge OSU football fan, I would not give money to OSU football, or men’s basketball, other than through my purchase of season tickets, which of course I would buy in this scenario. It isn’t that I have anything against either sport; I am a big fan of both. Rather, it is the fact that both sports rake in plenty of money, through a variety of means including ticket sales and donations from others. I would rather focus my donations toward sports that are more in need and where my money would make a bigger impact.
During my freshman year at Ohio State, I became a huge fan of the women’s basketball team, thanks largely to my involvement in the athletic band. In this scenario, I would donate $5 million toward the women’s basketball program with the goal to make sure that their facilities are the best in the country and then to use however they see fit. Most of this is driven by my affinity for the program but part of it is also due to the fact that I think that given the right kick start, Ohio State could be right up there with the UConn, Tennessee, and Stanford in the sport.
I would also donate $5 million to the rest of the non-revenue sports. The student athletes in these sports work just as hard as their counterparts on the football and men’s basketball teams and yet receive far less attention and support. I would earmark this money toward improving facilities for the non-revenue sports so that these student-athletes can enjoy the same top notch facilities that their counterparts in the revenue producing sports enjoy.
As anyone who has read my articles probably already knows, a big part of my time at Ohio State was spent with the marching and athletic bands. My involvement in the bands produced many of my favorite memories and many of my closest friends. Because of this, I would donate $10 million dollars toward the marching and athletic bands. I would earmark some of this money to be used for travel expenses in order to ensure that the marching band can continue to go to as many away football games as possible and that the athletic band can travel to NCAA tournament games in sports beyond men’s and women’s basketball and men’s ice hockey. I would also earmark a portion of this money to be used to endow a scholarship to a non-music major student who is in both the marching and athletic bands; nothing against music majors but this money would be for a student who was similar to me who loved the bands and gave their time to them despite not going into music as a career.
As most of you have probably guessed, based on the fact that I have written a series of articles on the academic aspects of Ohio State, I place a strong emphasis on academics and see that as the most important thing for OSU to succeed in. This would be reflected in the donations that I would make. However, despite my views on the need to support the academic side of Ohio State, I would not make any general donations to the university. This is largely due to an issue that I highlighted in last week’s article about how the university is devoting more resources toward administration that actual academic staff. Thus, all my donations would be targeted so that they have the maximum impact on the teaching and research done at Ohio State.
I graduated from Ohio State with a degree in Astronomy (no, that doesn’t mean that I can read your horoscope) and the Department of Astronomy would be a major beneficiary of my donations, to the tune of $10 million. As Astronomy moves more and more towards large telescopes that will conduct large scale surveys of the sky, fewer and fewer students will get the direct experience of spending time at a telescope observing; instead they will work with data already taken by other people conducting these surveys. I feel that this is not ideal for future students and thus would donate money so to ensure that all OSU students in Astronomy, both undergrad and graduate, would get a chance to visit a telescope, probably the LBT, in order to get the experience of actually being at a telescope observing. I also am a big supporter of public outreach from science departments so a portion of the money would be reserved for upgrading and maintaining the campus planetarium and observatory for use in public outreach, as well as Astronomy education. The final earmark in my donations to the Astronomy Department would be to endow a new faculty position which would spend a portion of its time focus on research in improving Astronomy education and research.
The cost to endow a presidential scholarship at Ohio State is $750,000, which goes to fund the scholarship in perpetuity. As part of my donations, I would give $4.5 million to endow six presidential scholarships with one specifically earmarked for a student from the state of Michigan (because we need to get as many students out of that horrible state as possible and because I was one of those students who went to high school in that state and then saw the light).
In total, of the $100 million that I would get from the lottery after taxes, I would donate $34.5 million to Ohio State in various forms. I would also donate money to other causes that I support but that is beyond the scope of this article. Now I’m not saying that I would be some sort of saint that would donate all of his winnings; I would make sure that my family and I are set for life, and a very comfortable life at that.
This whole article has been an interesting thought experiment but of course it is primarily just that, a hypothetical situation that is fun to think about but we all know that the odds of winning the lottery like this are extremely low. It is also easy to say that I would do all of these generous things with money that I don’t have, and never will have, but it would potentially be a different story if I were to actually have the money in hand. Still, it is something interesting to think about and it has made me realize what things I care about the most and made me realize that if I care about these things so much, there is still stuff that I can do now to support those things even if I’m not a millionaire. Whether it is by donating smaller amounts of money, some of my time, or simply promoting these programs when I have the chance, I can still help pay it forward and help improve Ohio State.
So what would you do if you were to get $100 million from the lottery? How much would you give to Ohio State? Share your responses in the comments section and then think about how you can still help pay it forward today.