Athens - Charles J. Ping, the eighteenth president of Ohio University, died in his sleep at his home in Athens on Tuesday, July 27th. He was 91. Ping is survived by his wife Claire and their children, Ann Venable (Jim), Andrew Ping (Aimée), four grandchildren Samuel (Bethany), Stephen (Krissy), Katie (Cody), and Jackson, and three great-grandchildren (Abram, Penny and Fordham).
Ping led Ohio University for nineteen years from 1975-1994. Before coming to Athens, he had been the Provost of Central Michigan University, and before that, he was the Dean and Acting President of Tusculum College. Ping was educated at Rhodes College, the Louisville Theological Seminary, and Duke University, where he received his PhD in Philosophy. He was also a graduate of the Harvard Business School's Management Program and he taught in its summer Program in Educational Management for many years.
When Ping arrived at Ohio, the university was reeling from its rapid expansion in the 1960s, student unrest and a sudden precipitous decline in enrollment. Led by his calm demeanor, steady hand and collaborative management style the university soon righted itself and began a steady climb to national and international prominence.
Ping was a committed internationalist. Building on the international connections begun under the presidencies of John Baker and Vernon Alden, Ping expanded Ohio University's educational influence abroad, especially in Africa, Japan, and Malaysia.
On campus, Ping worked with faculty leaders to restore common General Education requirements abandoned in the late 60s, as he was a firm believer in both the centrality of the liberal arts and the importance of a core curriculum. The program the faculty established eventually received national attention and a Program Excellence Award from the Ohio Board of Regents.
Ping also worked with leading scholars and scientists in the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Osteopathic Medicine to boost the university's research profile. By the end of his presidency, the university had been elevated to being ranked by the Carnegie Institute as one of the nation's top research universities. He was also instrumental in Alden Library's rise to be included among North America's most distinguished research libraries.
Under his leadership, the university created two new colleges: The Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and the College of Health and Human Services to provide educational opportunities for students interested in careers in the growing fields of health and wellness.
Ping realized that private giving was becoming increasingly important to public higher education and with the help of the Ohio University Foundation and loyal, generous alumni like Paul Stocker, Fritz Russ, Jeanette Grasselli Brown and Will Konneker, he launched several major fundraising campaigns which created student scholarships, endowed professorships, enhanced research funding and brought significant improvement in the university's endowment.
Quickly understanding that Ohio University had an unusually devoted alumni body, the Pings crisscrossed the state, the nation and much of the world, keeping alive the link between the alums and Athens and the campus. The Pings, led by Claire, were tireless hosts, opening their Park Place home to students, parents, alumni, faculty and visitors from across the world. Claire Ping took the lead in organizing local citizens to restore downtown Athens, which had been ravaged by several fires. Many remarked that they shared the presidency.
Ping inherited a large physical campus greatly expanded in the 1960s. While a new Aquatic Center was built during his years and Peden Stadium was expanded, his focus was on restoration. Many of the dorms on the West Green were repurposed for the Colleges of Medicine and Engineering. The former Carnegie Library was renovated to become the new home of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and construction was begun on the Charles J. Ping Recreation Center.
After Ping stepped down in 1994, he spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar in Namibia working with a commission to advise the newly independent country on its education system. International education remained a focus as he served for ten years as the Chair of the Board of the Council for International Educational Exchange and on the boards of several colleges. However, his main commitment remained to the university as he continued to teach both Philosophy and Educational Administration, and to play an active role in two programs created in the last years of his presidency: The Cutler Scholars Program and the Ping Institute for the Teaching of Humanities. He remained active in each until the last year of his life. As Hamlet says of his father, "He was a man, take him for all in all/We shall not look upon his like again."
Arrangements made by Jagers and Sons Funeral Home (online condolence available at www.jagersfuneralhome.com). There will be no visiting hours, but all are welcome to attend a service at the First Presbyterian Church, 2 N. Court St., Athens on Saturday, July 31 at 2:30 p.m. A memorial program will be held on campus later in the year. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions be sent to the Ohio University Foundation dedicated to support either the Ping Cutler Scholars or the Ping Institute. Charles J. Ping