2017 George E. Smith Distinguished Alumni Awards

Thomas L Wheeler

Your father owned a very successful Advertising company in Columbus and lived in Grandview, a suburb of Columbus just down the street from OSU. So you were born and raised in Grandview and graduated from Grandview High School in 1950. You enrolled in The Ohio State University that same year. You had the unique experience of attending the same University your grandparents and father attended and your grandparents graduated in 1906 which was close to the very beginning of the University and a time when there were only 2 buildings on our campus.

Your grandfather, also Tom Wheeler, had the distinction of helping to dig Mirror Lake and your grandson is the fifth generation to attend OSU. So you are clearly a “diehard” Buckeye.

It was this background that led to your accomplishments in the business world and you philanthropic efforts in retirement.

After a problematic pledging at another fraternity, you realized most of your friends were Sig Eps and you joined Ohio Gamma your sophomore year. You were at Ohio State in a strange time when football was not “King” and you were part of a group to hang football coach Carroll Widdoes in effigy. This led to the hiring of Woody Hayes and our first Rose Bowl. So, it might seem you helped put us on the map as a football school with your effigy prank!

Your leadership quickly became apparent as 1952 Rush Chairman where you brought in the largest recruiting class to date and became chapter president in 1953.

At OSU it seems you were on every committee there was. You were Junior Class President, a member of B.I.E., Alpha Phi Mu (Industrial Engineering Honorary Society), American Institute of Industrial Engineers, Council of Fraternity Presidents, Fraternity Affairs Office (Treasurer), Greek Week, IFC-Panhellenic Conference (C0-Chair), Interfraternity Commission, MAKIO (Sophomore Editor) , May week, OSPA (Campaign Chairman), Society Of American Military, Scabbard and Blade, Scarlet Mask, Senior Class Cabinet, Strollers, Student Life Conference (Chairman), Student Senate and Texnikoi.

Upon receiving your degree, you served in the Army Corp of Engineers as a 1st Lieutenant from 1955 to 1957

With your military discharge and a degree in Industrial engineering in hand, you applied and were accepted to graduate school at Harvard, MIT and The Warton School at the University of Pennsylvania. While Harvard accepted you, they were full. MIT accepted you but failed to tell you, and that left the Wharton School which not only told you but were not full. So, with a part time job in Engineering at Westinghouse, off you went to the Wharton School for your Masters. You completed your Master’s degree in 18 months but were disappointed in your first Ivy League football game where only about 5000 attended versus the large crowds at OSU!

After the Wharton School, trucking companies became interested in adding Industrial Engineers to their staff and you landed a job at a trucking company that wanted you to turn around a Chicago terminal that had never been profitable. Under your leadership and only 2 years later, they became profitable.

That success led you to the A. T. Carney company, a transport consulting company, and you were one of only 11 Industrial Engineers in the entire Trucking Industry.

Your “Big Break” came in 1967 when you joined the United Parcel Service or UPS as it is now known. In 1967 UPS was a fairly large company but not well known and 1967 was the beginning of some fantastic growth years. You spent 12 years overseeing the Industrial Engineering department before being named to manage the Corporate Real Estate Department for the next 15 years.

It is interesting to note that during your time at UPS, the company’s stock split 19 times and averaged growth of 17% per year over those 27 years. So both you and UPS were doing something right!

Giving back to the University was always a strong desire. So in honor of your father, you and your mother made a donation to the Business School to establish the Thomas Wheeler Jr. Lecture Hall in Gerlach Hall which has become a cornerstone of the Fisher College of Business.

Because of your own career and the business of your father, you have always been interested in small companies and their development. You were also interested in developing students in that field. But you did not wish to merely give money, you wanted to provide guidance to these students and to be active in their development. These interests led you to endow $2.5 million dollars to establish the Thomas L. Wheeler, III Internship for small business. Working with the assistant dean of the OSU business school, the internship provides $50,000 annually for student internships in small businesses and has become so successful that there are more small businesses looking for these interns than there are students!

You have 4 children and 10 grandchildren and now reside in Silverthorne, Colorado, where you serve as the Director of the Silverthorne Historical Society. Your daughter, Julia O-Hickey, is here with you tonight.

For your accomplishments and your passion and dedication to contributing to The Ohio State University and development of the young men and women who are served by your internship, we are honored to present you with the 2017 George E. Smith Distinguished Alumni Award.

Dr. Andrew W. Latham

You were a 1962 graduate of Monroeville High School, Monroeville, Ohio.  A small town in Huron county.

While you excelled in the classroom, you also excelled in sports lettering in baseball, basketball and football.  You were a halfback on the first MHS football team of the modern era, that team having its first official season during your senior year.  We are not sure the football team’s record that year but you count Monroeville’s first football victory as one of the highlights of your high school career!

While at MHS, you were also a member of band and chorus, acted in two class plays, and were a class officer.  Your high school career culminated in your receiving the Athletic Award for the graduating Class of ’62 while still finishing in the top 5 of your class academically.

Following high school you attended the Ohio State University, graduating with a bachelor’s of science degree in 1967.  At OSU you were inducted into Sigma Tau Beta (Steeb Hall residence  honorary), Alpha Pi Mu (Industrial Engineering honorary) and Alpha Epsilon Delta (pre-medical honorary).  But perhaps most importantly you joined Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity.

One of your good friends from Sig Ep, Dave Hay who is with us tonight, recalls a story of your prowess as a student. Of course we are all trying to remember things from 50 years ago so “most” of this is accurate! You started as an engineering major and in those days you picked your major in the 3rd year of a 5 year program. You asked Dave what he was majoring in and when he said Aero/Astro engineering, you said “sounds good” and after one quarter had a 3.9 GPA but decided that was not a career path you wanted. So you transferred to Industrial Engineering, still with a 3.9 accum. But sometime in the 5th year you had another moment and said “is this really what I want to do?” And so just a few credits shy of your IE degree you switched to Pre-med and we will see the rest is history!

From OSU, you attended the Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, graduating in 1971.  At Bowman Gray, you were elected to Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society representing the highest honor for academic achievement and leadership awarded to medical students.

You completed internship at the Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC in 1972, and residency training at the University of Cincinnati in 1976 as one of the earliest graduates of a residency program in the then newly established medical specialty of emergency medicine.

In 1976 you joined the staff of Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey, Michigan where you served as the chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine, chairman of the Life Support Committee, and chairman of the Primary Care Department of Burns Clinic Medical Center.  You were also medical director of the EMT curriculum at North Michigan Community College in Petoskey from 1978 to 1980.

In 1980, pursuing a goal of developing a physician group composed of emergency medicine specialists in a major medical center, you joined the medical staff at Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan as medical director of emergency and trauma services.

That same year, you co-founded Kalamazoo Emergency Associates (KEA), a professional corporation of emergency physicians, and served as president of that organization for 21 years until your retirement in 2001.  Under your leadership, KEA grew from an organization of five physicians providing emergency physician services at Borgess Medical Center to a group of nearly 50 physicians practicing in a coordinated network of regional hospital emergency departments in southwestern Michigan.

You were also a medical director and flight physician for Borgess In-Flight Medical Services, one of the first medical helicopter services in Michigan, and participated in a leadership capacity in the development of Borgess Medical Center as a Level 1 Trauma Center.  You served as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine for Michigan State University while at Borgess…but we understand you never donned a Michigan State sweatshirt!

Since retiring from emergency medicine and often accompanied by your wife Jan, you have pursued community and international service in several capacities.  As a member of Rotary International, you traveled to India and Nigeria to immunize thousands of children in the global initiative to eradicate polio, distributed wheelchairs to disabled persons in a small community in Mexico and traveled to Haiti to promote clean water projects in that country.

You also traveled to Kenya on two occasions to provide medical services in a remote Masai tribal village.

In 2010, a few days after the earthquake which devastated Haiti, you joined a group of health care providers to fly into Puerto Prince, Haiti in order to deliver emergency care to victims of that disaster.

Most recently in 2015 you and Jan traveled with Habitat for Humanity to assist in building a home for a Nicaraguan family in a coastal village in that country.

You also served on several community boards in Kalamazoo and have been active in your church, chairing two construction projects and participating in several committees in leadership positions.

In addition to backpacking with Jan, you have canoed more than 2000 miles of remote Canadian whitewater Wilderness Rivers, and have summited technical mountain peaks on six continents.

In the Swiss and French Alps, your favorite climbing venue, summits have included such iconic peaks as the Matterhorn, Mt. Blanc, the Eiger, the Monch and the Jungfrau.

You are married to the former Jan Griffin of Durham, North Carolina.  Previously a pediatric critical care nurse, Jan is now an international women’s adventure travel guide who directs and leads active hiking, climbing and trekking trips around the globe.

You are the proud parents of five children – Carrie (husband Charlie Johnson), Alison (husband Ryan O’Donnell), Amy who is here with her husband Dan Mervak), Stephen (wife Kim Wohlgemuth), and Adam her with Nichole Geese) – and have six grandchildren – Delaney, Dylan, Clara, Abel, Jack and Evelyn.

For your lifetime of accomplishment, we are proud to honor you with the 2017 George E. Smith Distinguished Alumni Award.