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Eerie author to deliver parting words at Ohio State graduation

OSU graduate and author R.L. Stine is scheduled to speak at autumn commencement Dec. 15. Credit: Courtesy of MCT

OSU graduate and author R.L. Stine is scheduled to speak at autumn commencement Dec. 15. Credit: Courtesy of MCT

Tears from laughter were perhaps the most common reaction to R.L. Stine’s writing when he attended Ohio State. As his career developed, tears from terror might have been more his aim.

From satire at “The Sundial” to a sicker sense of humor in his award-winning “Goosebumps” series, Stine will help students make the “scary” transition from college to career when he addresses graduating students at the 2013 Autumn Commencement Dec. 15 at the Schottenstein Center.

The Bexley native has written more than 300 books for young adults, selling more than 350 million worldwide. He began writing “Goosebumps” books, his most famous children’s fiction series depicting characters in “scary” circumstances, in 1992, about the time many of the Autumn 2013 graduates were born.

Jill Londino, a fourth-year in strategic communication set to graduate in December, grew up reading the “Goosebumps” books and was “a big fan.”

“(Stine) is definitely an unexpected choice (for commencement speaker) because, you know, maybe he’s not scholarly, but I think it’s a great pick. Hopefully he maybe reads an excerpt or two from his books,” Londino said.

Before his success in the genre of young adult horror fiction, though, Stine was a bit more “jovial.”

Stine served as editor-in-chief of OSU’s student-managed humor magazine, “The Sundial,” and wrote under the penname “Jovial” Bob Stine before graduating with a bachelor’s in English in 1965. Collin Gossel, a third-year in music composition and the current editor-in-chief of “The Sundial,” said it wasn’t uncommon for Stine to generate entire issues by himself.

“He was basically a legend,” Gossel said. “At the time, he would be (at ‘The Sundial’) constantly, working on pieces, writing comedy, working on things with other members of ‘The Sundial.’ Also, at the time, he had a pension for being a little more scathing than we are now. He would do pranks and things … to spread ‘The Sundial’ work.”

His most famous prank, Gossel explained, consisted of Stine running for Undergraduate Student Government as a write-in nominee the year he was scheduled to graduate, which makes a person ineligible to run. He received 1,200 write-in votes, according to OSU’s University Libraries blog.

“I decided to run for USG president as a publicity stunt to sell magazines,” Stine said in a 2011 email to The Lantern. “I was a graduating senior. I knew I couldn’t legitimately run. Mostly, I wanted to see if, as a write-in candidate, I could sabotage the election.

“It gave me confidence that people enjoyed my sense of humor.”

“The Sundial” went on hiatus in the ‘90s, and Gossel credits Stine, who gave students advice and a donation, to help revive the publication. Although “The Sundial” does not print today, it maintains a website overseen by a group of editors and contributors.

Although Gossel is not graduating this semester, he said Stine is a “great” choice to speak at commencement.

“He contributed a lot to our university and he’s making a good name for us in the world. A lot of us grew up with R.L. Stine, and now we are seeing him as we are going into our adult lives, too,” Gossel said.

Stine continues to write new additions to the “Goosebumps” series while releasing additional projects, including his autobiography, “It Came from Ohio,” and TV series “The Haunting Hour,” which is in its third season and won an Emmy Award for Best Children’s Series.

Preston Witt, a third-year master’s of fine arts student in English, called Stine “an inspiration for reading and writing” and said it is “pretty awesome” Stine will be speaking at commencement.

“(Stine) has definitely paved the way for things like ‘Twilight’ and ‘Hunger Games,’” Witt said. “He made this strange, middle-brow between humor and horror. He got you interested in not only one story, but a series, something you invested in time and time again.”

Stine might address many of his former readers when he returns to OSU in December, but there will be some graduates, like Zach Critser, who believed Stine’s books to be “too scary” when they were younger.

“I didn’t read (‘Goosebumps’) because they scared the crap out of me. I skipped straight to ‘The Hardy Boys’ instead,” Critser, a fifth-year in operations management and logistics management, said. “I think (Stine’s speech) will be pretty good. I know he’s from the area and he went to OSU. He’s a pretty creative guy, so I imagine he’ll think of something pretty good to say.”

The Lantern has an interview scheduled with Stine later this week.

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