Changes In Store For Alumni Magazine

By Steve Daniel, Editor

Along with its latest Strategic Plan, whose goals we feature in this issue, Old Dominion is applying a forward-focused approach to its marketing and communications initiatives, and this entails changes that you will see in the coming months.

Starting next spring, the university will introduce a new version of this magazine, which will also incorporate ODU’s former research magazine, Quest. The new publication, designed to reach a broader constituent base, will tell ODU’s stories as well as provide insight on current issues through the eyes and work of the university community. Jim Raper, the editor of Quest for the past five years, will edit the new magazine. It will utilize a variety of writers and photographers to offer fresh voices and perspectives.

Another initiative, a redesigned ODU website, was introduced in August. Its aim is to better engage and inform the university’s many audiences by providing information in an easy-to-navigate format with a visually appealing design. Changes will continue next year throughout the website’s more than 25,000 pages. ODU also launched this fall, an e-newsletter for faculty and staff, which I now edit.

It was my privilege to edit ODU’s alumni periodical for the past 27 years. From the tabloid-sized Alumnews, which initially came out six times a year, to the four-color magazine, the publication has evolved as the university has matured. The best part of being editor was having the opportunity to meet and tell the stories of so many interesting and accomplished alumni. Sharing your news and stories, as well as keeping you informed about – and connected with – your alma mater, has been most gratifying.

As I take on new duties, I thought I would pass on a bit of ODU history that was shared with me in my role as editor – in hopes that it gives you some sense of appreciation for the amazing transformation of your alma mater.

A May 22, 1956, copy of The High Hat (the precursor of the Mace & Crown student newspaper), donated by Ed Tyree, underscored the youth of the institution – still a two-year extension of William and Mary at the time – but also prophesied where the school was headed. While one story reported on the $3.1 million biennial budget for the 2,400-student “Norfolk Division,” a banner headline on the front page announced: “College to Graduate First Senior Class on June 6.” The first line of the story about those 15 graduating seniors (which included Tyree) said it all: “History is in the making!”

Indeed, the little school on Hampton Boulevard, born during the Great Depression, was taking a big step. It would be only six years later when The Division gained its independence from W&M to become a fully four-year school under the name Old Dominion College.

Another favorite acquisition is a copy of Virginia Rice Webb’s chicken salad recipe from the Webb family cookbook, which her daughter Mary Lewis Webb-Ash (wife of longtime ODU aerospace engineering professor Bob Ash) shared with me several years ago. Webb was the wife of Lewis Webb, who served the school first as director, and later as president, during the period 1946 to 1974. He is known, rightly so, as “the father of ODU,” but she also left her mark.

Her chicken salad, as it turned out, had its own place in the history of the institution. Old Dominion’s first lady often made it for college functions, such as parties for the faculty and advisory boards. In her annotated recipe, Webb wrote: “Lewis and I worked together making ODU a reality. … At the dedication of my portrait at ODU on April 27, 1986, David Shufflebarger made this statement: ‘Virginia’s chicken salad is the glue that held our college together.’ I have made many, many pounds of chicken salad over the years for ODU, and when you look at how the College turned out, you know it was good glue!”

In my role as editor, I have had the opportunity to meet many of the people who helped make ODU the great institution it is today – from the Webbs, to Rufus Tonelson and Ruth Wilson James, who were among the very first students to enroll in 1930, to the venerable and beloved Bill Whitehurst, who is still going strong teaching political science and history. The college has, indeed, turned out just fine, and we all – former and current students, staff and faculty – owe a debt to them and to the many others who contributed their own ingredients to the successful recipe that is Old Dominion.