The Ohio Region was formed in 1987 following two years of planning and organizational efforts. In 1985, Rod Risley, newly named Executive Director of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, asked Dr. Mary Navarro to work with him to form a region in Ohio. At the time, there were sixteen chapters in the state. Dr. Navarro, with long and extensive experience in Phi Theta Kappa at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, agreed to work to build a region and bring the sixteen chapters together as an organization.
During the first year of this planning cycle, the first annual meeting was held at Central Ohio Technical College, and Alpha Theta Sigma of Shawnee State Community College served as host for the event. In 1986, the second annual meeting was held at Lorain County Community College, and the host chapter was Phi Pi from that college. Billy Wilson from Headquarters attended and conducted workshops helping student members, advisors, and alumni to work through the criteria to meet the requirements for establishing a Phi Theta Kappa Region. The annual meeting worked to write a constitution and by-laws for the proposed region.
In the fall of 1987, Alpha Lambda Eta of Edison State Community College in Piqua hosted the first Regional Convention. The new constitution and by-laws were presented, and officers were elected. Donations from several chapters established the first regional treasury. The region was active from the start, adding new chapters on a regular basis, but the treasury's growth was slow. In 1990, the region voted to increase region dues to assist in the work of the Ohio Region of Phi Theta Kappa.
In these early years, few advisors expressed an interest either in serving on a regional advisory council or attending regional meetings. Consequently, the officers restructured the executive board of the region. The region was divided into six districts, each representing a fairly equal number of chapters. Each district then nominated one student district representative to serve that district on the executive board. The idea was to strengthen and support the chapters in the region by giving each district an equal voice in the region's policies and actions and to offer new student leadership opportunities. The district representatives, like regional officers, were elected at the regional convention each year, serving a one-year term of office.
Several years after the region was formed, Ohio initiated its first Leadership Conference. Alpha Nu Lambda, at Clark State Community College in Springfield, hosted the first Leadership Conference with support from International Headquarters. Ohio altered its annual calendar, holding a leadership conference in the fall and the regional convention in the spring. When International Headquarters restructured its annual convention awards, they gave each region three Honors Institute Scholarships. Under the leadership of the Ohio President, Tim McIntire, the region's executive committee met in Springfield, with Alpha Nu Lambda serving as host for the event, and revised the regions' awards system. The region now established three meetings a year, with Leadership in the fall, an Honors Institute in winter, and the regional convention in spring. Host chapters for each event would receive one of the three Honors Institute Scholarships provided by International Headquarters.
During this formative period Dr. Navarro, with the assistance of Mike Watson from Headquarters, began pursuing and establishing transfer scholarships for Phi Theta Kappans to four year institutions. These efforts paid off quickly as transfer scholarships were offered by Bowling Green State University, the University of Dayton, Wittenberg University, Xavier University, and the University of Toledo. (A more complete, current list can be found on collegefish.org.)
In 1995, the Ohio and Indiana Regions became sister regions and agreed to support mutual goals and efforts of each region. This includes fundraising activities, international election campaigns, visits between regions, and sharing experiences and expertise. The two regions collaborated with the Kentucky Region to launch its first “Tri-Regional Conference: Uniting Honors & Leadership” at Ivy Tech Community College in Lawrenceburg, Indiana and at the National Underground Railroad and Freedom Center Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio September 2017.
In 1995, Dr. Navarro announced she was going to step down as Regional Coordinator and following a search by Headquarters via the Region, Dr. John C. Kesler from Lakeland Community College was selected as the Interim Coordinator. In 1996 following his year as Interim Coordinator, Phi Theta Kappa Headquarters confirmed his selection as Coordinator for the Ohio Region. In 2003, Dr. Kesler announced his resignation as Regional Coordinator and Cindy Carbone from Washington State Community College was appointed Regional Coordinator. After serving as Dean of Arts & Sciences at Edison Community College and then Central Ohio Technical College, Ms. Carbone announced her resignation summer 2014 when she accepted a position at Oakland Community College in Michigan. She remains advisor of the Alpha Omicron Psi Chapter and was honored by Phi Theta Kappa in 2015 as a Regional Coordinator Emeritus. In October 2014, headquarters appointed Julie Cohara, former contact advisor for the Alpha Mu Delta, Beta Lambda Nu, and Beta Sigma Omega Chapters at Hocking College to become the next Regional Coordinator. Since January 2016, Ms. Cohara co-advises the Beta Beta Theta chapter at Ohio University, where she serves as University College’s Director of Degree Programs.
In 1996-97, the Ohio Region introduced the All Ohio Academic Team program in the Region. Under the leadership of the Region's Presidential Ambassador, Dr. Ralph Doty of Lakeland Community College, the Ohio Region in partnership with the OACC – Ohio Association of Community Colleges - hosted its first All Ohio Academic Team event where $15,000 in scholarships was presented to Ohio’s best and brightest college students.
In 1998, following a year and a half study, the Ohio Region restructured its by-laws and calendar to bring it closer to the International calendar. The calendar for region events changed as did part of the awards system. In 1998 at the international convention in Nashville, the Ohio Region was presented with the Milestone Award signifying recognition for its programming and activity. In 2005 at the international convention in Dallas, TX, the Ohio Region was presented with its second milestone award. In 2015, the Ohio Region earned its third milestone award in San Antonio, TX.
In 2005-06, the region evaluated the district alignment and voted to re-align the district boundaries to better reflect chapter distribution and geographic travel for the district representatives.
In 2007, the Ohio Region celebrated its 20th Anniversary at the Ohio Region Convention, held at Edison Community College – the site of the first convention held in the region. For the first time, the region contracted with an outside keynote speaker – Coach William Yoast from “Remember the Titans” football fame. It recognized 20 past regional officers and the largest gathering of alumni members to date. The region continues to grow and prosper and the 20th Anniversary was a tribute to that success.
In 2008 at the International Convention in Philadelphia, the Ohio Region Officer Team was recognized as a Distinguished Regional Officer Team. The following year at the 2009 international convention in Dallas, Cindy Carbone received a Distinguished Regional Coordinator Award. At the 2011 Phi Theta Kappa annual convention in Seattle, Alpha of Ohio was recognized as the Most Outstanding Regional Alumni Association. Alpha of Ohio received this recognition again in 2016 in Washington, D.C. When Phi Theta Kappa established an Alumni Advisory Board (AAB) in 2017, Sinclair alumnus and 2016 Most Distinguished Regional Officer as Ohio’s SY15-16 region president Brenda Jarvis served as the first AAB representative for Ohio.
In 2008, Alpha of Ohio, the Ohio Region’s alumni association was voted by the Ohio Region to oversee all regional fundraising. The Ohio Region logo was officially established in 2009. In 2010 Ohio Region license plates were available for purchase in the state of Ohio with $25 of the fee going to regional scholarships. This marked a historic event in Phi Theta Kappa history as the Ohio Region became the first region to have its own specialty license plate legalized through the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. The regional hallmark awards program was revised to reflect changes to the international program in 2010. In 2011, the regional scholarship application process was redesigned so one common application for all scholarships could be submitted. In 2015, scholarship applications were updated so that it was a blind judging process.
At the 2011 regional convention keynote speaker, Willie Lanier – Pro Football Hall of Famer of the Kansas City Chiefs – announced he was endowing the Ohio Region $10,000 to start a new scholarship. The Dorothy C. Lanier Scholarship for the Ohio Region was developed with the first scholarship being given at the 2011 Leadership in Action event in July. Mr. Lanier conference called into the event to speak to attendees about the scholarship, congratulate the first recipient, and state he looked forward to working with the Ohio Region in the future.
The Ohio Region celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2012 at the annual regional convention held at Central Ohio Technical College – the site of the first meeting to develop the Ohio Region twenty-seven years earlier. Twenty-two past regional officers were recognized and over forty alumni attended. Guest speakers included Coaches William Yoast and Herman Boone – from “Remember the Titans” fame – and Executive Director, Dr. Rod Risley. This was the largest convention ever held by the Ohio Region. A tribute of the region’s silver anniversary was given showcasing the growth and success of the Ohio Region and its chapters.
The region is indebted to and wishes to thank Dr. Navarro, Dr. Kesler, Dr. Risley, Dr. Tincher-Ladner, Ms. Carbone, and Ms. Cohara for their strong, enthusiastic and dedicated support to Phi Theta Kappa and the Ohio Region and for this history of the region.