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Ohio State history professor David Steigerwald selected to give Autumn Commencement address

OSU history professor David Steigerwald. Credit: Courtesy of David Steigerwald.

OSU history professor David Steigerwald. Credit: Courtesy of David Steigerwald.

Graduating students seeking advice for their futures are set to get some from a man well-versed in history. 

Ohio State history professor David Steigerwald is set to address approximately 3,200 graduating students during Autumn Commencement, OSU announced Monday.

Steigerwald is a 1982 OSU alumnus who teaches 20th century history at the Marion branch campus as well as main campus. He specializes in post-World War II American history and American intellectual history. He is currently the director of the Department of History’s World War II study abroad program.

“We are honored to welcome Ohio State alumnus and esteemed history professor David Steigerwald as our upcoming commencement speaker,” said President Michael Drake in a released statement. “Widely recognized as a distinguished scholar and teacher, Professor Steigerwald will share his perspective on American history and how our graduates can be successful in an ever-changing global future.”

Steigerwald won the Alumni Distinguished Teaching award — the university’s highest recognition for teaching excellence — in 2009.

He said being selected as the speaker is an “overwhelming honor,” in a Monday email.

“I grew up in Ohio and came here as a first-generation college student, sort of on a lark, not knowing what I wanted to do,” Steigerwald said. “I had the good fortune to study with a handful of marvelous history professors, and they set the course of my career. Between my undergrad years and my many years on the faculty, I’ve spent almost my whole adult life associated with OSU.”

This year’s Fall Commencement is set to cost $120,000, OSU spokeswoman Amy Murray said in an email. Last year’s cost $118,000.

Students were part of the selection process that chose Steigerwald, OSU spokeswoman Liz Cook said in an email. She said the speaker was selected by the subcommittee of the Speaker Advisory Committee. The subcommittee is comprised of three student members and three faculty committee members, she said.

The university received backlash from students for not gaining student input in the selection process that brought political analyst Chris Matthews to OSU as the 2014 Spring Commencement speaker.

Instead of a committee choosing the speaker like usual, Executive Vice President and Provost Joseph Steinmetz said during a March interview with The Lantern that he and others in the Office of Academic Affairs, including “all the vice provosts and vice presidents,” chose Matthews.

Some students who are set to graduate at the end of this semester said they were pleased with Steigerwald’s selection.

“This history guy probably has a good understanding of Ohio State since he graduated from here, since he’s an (alumnus),” said Ben Weisbrod, a fourth-year in criminology.

Weisbrod said he would like Steigerwald to give a speech that’s both compelling and out of the ordinary.

“I think it would be kind of cool if he offers something out-of-the-box, not the generic ‘you can do it’ speech that everybody gives at commencement — maybe something more truthful and honest,” Weisbrod said. “Definitely not a history lesson — that’d be kind of boring. I’m done with school at that point.”

Kirsten Mullins, a fourth-year in finance, said she hopes Steigerwald gives some advice on adjusting to life outside of a collegiate environment. 

“It’s a culture shock to leave something we’ve known, so it’s a big deal to talk about advice and how to transfer from school to the real world,” she said.

The ceremony is set to be held Dec. 21 at 2 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.

Distinguished Service Awards are set to be given during the ceremony to Martha Garland, a senior administrator, and OSU alumnus Robert Weiler, chairman of the board of Columbus real estate company Robert Weiler Company.

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