Gilliam, Shivers, Smith honored at King Arts Complex ‘Legends & Legacies’ event
Award honors individuals who have made a cultural impact
Three Ohio State University leaders were recognized for their contributions to higher education and the community-at-large during the 15th Annual King Arts Complex Legends & Legacies awards ceremony: Melissa Gilliam, executive vice president and provost; Melissa Shivers, senior vice president for the Office of Student Life; and Gene Smith, senior vice president and Wolfe Foundation Endowed Athletics Director. The event was held Oct. 6 at the Lincoln Theatre in Columbus.
Legends & Legacies honors humanitarians, activists and artists who have made a cultural impact on the world, said Demetries Neely, King Arts Complex executive director.
“At one of America’s largest and finest public universities, something very special has occurred under the leadership of President Kristina M. Johnson,” Neely said. “The Ohio State University presents a remarkable, diverse senior leadership team.”
In a conversation with Johnson during the event, Gilliam, Shivers and Smith shared personal and professional experiences and spoke about the path that led them to Ohio State and lessons learned along the way.
“I think you can all see why we at Ohio State in Columbus, in higher education, are blessed to have such exceptional leaders as the three of you,” Johnson said. “I’m honored to serve with you.”
As Ohio State’s executive vice president and provost, Gilliam leads an academic enterprise that includes 15 colleges, more than 7,500 faculty members and more than 67,000 students on campuses in Columbus, Lima, Mansfield, Marion, Newark and Wooster.
An educator and physician, Gilliam joined Ohio State from the University of Chicago, where she was vice provost.
Gilliam said her father, Sam Gilliam, a renowned artist, and her mother, Dorothy Butler Gilliam, the first Black woman journalist at The Washington Post, set an example in pursuing excellence.
“I have so many ancestors that were blood-related and not blood-related, so many people who enabled me to do what I do,” Gilliam said. “You’re looking and thinking about something much bigger, much greater. I think it’s those things, coming from a tremendous family, tremendous communities, and just feeling grateful.”
Shivers oversees university operations affecting students outside the classroom, including the residential experience, dining services, student leadership and service, health care and wellness programs, mental health support, disability services and career development, among other responsibilities.
Shivers came to Ohio State from the University of Iowa, where she was vice president for student affairs.
Shivers, a first-generation college graduate, said her mother instilled the value of education while working three jobs to support Shivers and her sister on her own.
“I’m going to always attribute who I am and why I am to my mom. She is such an inspiration to me,” Shivers said. “Her full heart’s desire was just to see us be successful. Now walking into my 26th year of working in higher education and, specifically, student affairs, I believe that my calling and my hard work is to support students.”
Smith is in his 18th year as Ohio State’s athletics director – the third-longest tenure in the position behind only L.W. St. John and Richard Larkins.
Smith also credited his parents with encouraging him to pursue higher education and maximize his potential.
“I learned my work ethic from my dad. My dad was an electrician, and my heroes are the masonry guys, the carpenters and construction workers,” Smith said. “My mom taught me the greatest values – respect for others. She taught me respect, she taught me integrity, she taught me to appreciate all kinds of people. She taught me how to care, she taught me humility. She taught me all those values that brought me here today.”
Gilliam, Shivers and Smith reflected on the legacy they would like to leave.
Shivers said she would like to set an example for colleagues and students on achieving work-life balance.
“Over my career, I’ve gained a much deeper appreciation for being a great professional and being a great human,” she said. “What I hope my legacy will be at Ohio State is continuing that focus on student and staff success, but doing it in a way that actually accepts and invites people to take care of their own health and well-being first in order to be able to provide for and support our students.”
Smith said his mission is to provide student-athletes with resources and support to grow academically, athletically and socially during their time at Ohio State, and graduate with skills that transfer to success in life.
The Eugene D. Smith Leadership Institute – funded by private support – provides leadership, character and career development for all Ohio State student-athletes to prepare them for life after graduation. Programs include Bucks Go Pro internships, job shadowing and career fairs, among other resources.
Smith said he emphasizes “the holistic development of the student-athlete. I want student-athletes to truly grow as people.”
Gilliam said her focus is on promoting excellence in every facet of university life.
“I deeply believe in young people with all my heart,” she said. “I just have so much confidence and so much faith in young people. Being on a college campus and looking out of my window and seeing college students, it really lifts my heart.”