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State tour highlights Buckeyes partnerships across Ohio

Local diners, big business and farm fields are all part of The Ohio State University annual state tour.

It is a summer tradition for President Michael V. Drake to travel around the state with students, staff and supporters of Ohio State.

Drake surprised new students at the Red Pig Inn in Ottawa to get the tour underway. He spoke to students, guests of the restaurant and staff at the family-owned barbeque restaurant.

For students on the tour, it’s a chance to learn more about the state and show appreciation for those who love the university.

“The state tour is really an opportunity to go out into the communities, go to local businesses, do service projects and reach out to alumni to really show that we appreciate them and all they do for Ohio State and really see what makes up the state of Ohio,” said Megan Schmidt, a third-year new media and communication technology major.

The caravan celebrated the university’s sesquicentennial at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums in Fremont. Ohio State has scheduled a series of events during the 2019-2020 academic year to mark the 150th anniversary of the university’s founding.

The event at the Hayes library was a fitting part of that celebration. In 1870, when Hayes was Ohio’s governor, he pushed Ohio General Assembly to create a land-grant university under the Morrill Act.

“We’ve stayed true to that mission of being able to be a place where the sons and daughters of the people of our community could be educated in ways that would allow us to advance that community forward,” Drake said.

Drake’s visit to Mercy Health – Tiffin Hospital is part of a partnership to help improve the health of citizens in the Buckeye state.

In November 2018, Ohio State and Mercy Health launched the Healthy State Alliance to tackle Ohio’s critical health needs. The new partnership is addressing the opioid epidemic and increasing access to cancer and transplant care.

The tour also included a stop at the North Central Agricultural Research Station in Fremont, where scientists are working to improve core Ohio crops – tomatoes in particular. Work there has included research to develop tomato varieties high in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that may reduce the risk of prostate and other cancers. Those tomatoes are being used by Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center in their work to find better ways to prevent and treat disease.

The research station also focuses on managing pests, plant diseases and weeds and finding profitable crops and varieties for farmer partners in the state. For instance, research there has helped growers and food processors identify high-quality cabbages for Ohio’s sauerkraut industry.

Stops at the Campbell Soup Supply Company facility in Napoleon and at Marathon Petroleum’s corporation headquarters in Findlay allowed tour travelers to learn more about businesses that support Ohio. For some students on the tour, it was eye-opening.

“I’m not originally from Ohio. I came straight from home to Columbus and I haven’t seen what the rest of Ohio looks like,” said Amun Mehta, a second-year operations management major. “To really interact with the communities around me, it’s been totally life-changing. I think I had a severe lack of appreciation for how much they really do for us. It was really cool to figure out what goes on behind the scenes and what makes us who we truly are.”

The first leg of this summer’s state tour wrapped up with a stop for ice cream at Jer-Zee Drive-In in Marion. The second leg of the state tour is scheduled for early August. Drake will also be on the road next week with the university’s annual Roads Scholars Tour.