Ohio Journalist

Athens’ Sense of Place

By Sam Mullan

(December 1, 2015) — What is it about Athens and Ohio University that cause alumni to want to come back so badly? Is it something in the water? In the air? Or is Athens just a place that will live on forever in the memories of the alumni? It’s a place they yearn to visit as soon as they leave, a place, in some cases, people consider moving back to. With Allison Hunter and Tanner Smith, moving back was exactly what they decided to do.

Hunter, a 1989 graduate who spent more than 20 years in the field, made her way back to Athens via graduate school, as she was ready for a new chapter of her life. When she decided to go to grad school, she called Bob Stewart, director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. In asking for advice, it was suggested that she attend OU, which ended up being just what she needed to come back.

“I get bored doing something too much,” Hunter said. “I’ve done so much in the field; I needed to find something new. So I thought, how about teaching?”

Hunter could have chosen to go to any of the elite journalism schools across the country for her master’s degree, but the familiarity of Ohio University just seemed too enticing. Besides the familiarity, Athens seemed like the perfect place for Hunter to raise her kids.

“It just fit,” Hunter said. Hunter was hired by WOUB to serve as its editor in chief beginning in August.

Smith, a 2012 graduate, took a bit different route to make his way back to Athens. After graduation, Smith went to Philadelphia to work with a start-up company called 20/20 Visual Media covering Temple University athletics. However, the uncertainty of a start-up company was enough to get Smith to look for other options. One of those was to work for Ohio University’s athletic department.

“It’s been really rewarding,” Smith said. “I’ve really enjoyed it, and it’s nice to be back in Athens.”

Smith still had recent and fond memories of Athens and Ohio University, especially when it came to the sense of community. Having gone to the big city of Philadelphia, Smith understood and appreciated the benefits of a smaller community like Athens. The sense of family that Athens presented to him was, in his mind, second to nowhere in the country.

Smith, like Hunter, believed in that sense of familiarity that Athens offered. It worked out that Smith’s new job is working with Bobcats TV, something that he kept up with, even while in Philadelphia, so that he could follow Bobcat athletics. The chance to be a part of that was simply a great opportunity for him, and it may allow him in the future to look into opportunities like grad school to extend his education.

However, a person doesn’t necessarily have to be in Athens to stay involved with OU. People like Andy Alexander, a visiting professional, and Rachael Larimore, an editor for Slate Magazine, were able to do that by staying involved with one of the four advisory boards: Board of Trustees, Society of Alumni and Friends, Professional Advisory Board and the Dean Advisory Council.

Larimore, who recently completed her one-year term as president of the Society of Alumni and Friends (SAF), has been with the group for five years. Despite being the president, she is only required to come back to Athens once or twice a year. Senior Saturday (see story on page 96) is the focal point of an event for SAF, which happened to be where it all started for Larimore.

“A friend of mine from The Post invited me to come back for Senior Saturday to speak on a panel,” Larimore said. “I had a lot of fun doing that, so when they asked me to become a Senior Saturday co-chair, I jumped at the chance.”

On top of that, Larimore continues to talk to students.

In the end, there seems to be a certain something that constantly draws alumni back in.

“When you get out of school, it becomes more magical,” Hunter said. “You romanticize it.”

Whether it’s the community or any of the other beyond-the-numbers pieces that fit together to create the image of Athens, one thing is certainly clear: Athens has some bit of magic that makes it a welcoming spot for students, families and alumni of all ages.

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