Ohio State mourns death of former president
Ohio State University President Emeritus Harold Leroy Enarson, who helped shape the spirit and mission of the university in lasting ways, died recently (7/28) in Port Townsend, WA. He was 87.
During his nine-year tenure as president, from 1972 to 1981, Enarson was considered a strong advocate for creating opportunities for women, minorities, and students with disabilities. He created a Commission on Women, an Office of Women's Services, the Center for Women's Studies, the Office of Disability Services, and the Black Cultural Center (today the Frank W. Hale, Jr. Black Cultural Center). He also appointed Ann Reynolds the first female provost. Enrollments of women and black students increased dramatically, as did the number of women faculty.
Enarson was president when the Drake Union opened on the Olentangy River in 1972, when Archie Griffin won his first and second Heisman trophies; when the Blizzard of 1978 closed the university for two days; and when the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to graduate Paul Flory. He stunned football fans by firing football coach Woody Hayes. He also worked to implement a Medical Practice plan to get doctors to return part of their practice income to the university.
"Today, Ohio State's programs are stronger and its reputation more eminent thanks to Harold Enarson," said Ohio State President Karen A. Holbrook. "He was an articulate and courageous spokesman and gave Ohio State a national voice."
Before coming to Ohio State, Enarson was the first president of the new Cleveland State University from 1966 to 1972. He served as academic vice president at the University of New Mexico, his alma mater, from 1960 to 1966.
When he was named Ohio State's ninth president in 1972, his immediate challenge was to restore confidence in the university leadership. Both students and faculty had questioned the role of central administration during earlier student riots. Enarson sought to be widely visible on campus, and interacted frequently with students.
A political scientist with graduate degrees from Stanford and American University, he taught political science at Whittier College and Stanford before entering government service. From 1954 to 1960, he was executive director of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), a regional higher education organization in Boulder, CO. After leaving Ohio State, he returned to WICHE and served 15 years as senior adviser. He also accepted several teaching assignments, served on numerous national committees, accreditation councils and teams, and delivered occasional lectures and commencement addresses.
Presiding over his final commencement ceremony at Ohio State, in spring of 1981, Enarson received an honorary doctorate of humane letters degree and delivered the commencement address. He told graduates, "In the years ahead, who will stand up for OSU? I trust it will be you. It must be you."
In 2002, Enarson was interviewed at his home in Boulder as part of the university's oral history project. He said that "he wished to be remembered as a problem solver, not a miracle man, …who dealt with issues in a straight-forward, forthright fashion; who never backed off from a battle he thought was important."
He is survived by his wife, Audrey, and three daughters.
Editors note: Photos available on request.