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Mortar Board Society carries a torch, wins national recognition

A chapter of the Mortar Board Society carries the “Golden Torch” for the Golden Torch Award across campus. Credit: Courtesy of LoLynn Giancola

Spring semester’s Mortar Board Society walks across the Oval prior to graduation. Credit: Courtesy of JoLynn Giancola

The members of the Mortar Board Senior Class Honor Society at the Ohio State University are a group distinguished and defined by their pillars of scholarship, leadership and service. Their work to maintain those pillars was recognized when the society received the Gold Torch Award on Aug. 27.

The award is presented to individual chapters that, in the words of the Mortar Board Society, “must excel in all areas of chapter operations while promoting scholarship, leadership and meaningful service to their institutions.”

OSU’s chapter, which just a year ago celebrated its centennial, predates the national society from which it received the award by four years. The OSU society, in fact, was one of the four chapters to found the National Mortar Board Society in 1918.

This was not the first recognition OSU’s Mortar Board Society has received. It’s been just two years since the OSU chapter won the national organization’s highest honor: the Ruth Weimer Mount Chapter Excellence Award.

“A lot of community service is about the Columbus community, and this is very much about the university community,” said Louise Douce, special assistant to the vice president of the Office of Student Life and the Mortar Board Society faculty advisor. “It’s an opportunity to bring people who are demonstrated leaders together.”

JoLynn Giancola, a fourth-year in chemistry and microbiology and this year’s president of the OSU chapter, recounted her reaction to the reward.

“I was totally excited,” she said. “I was not expecting it … I knew that they had applied for it, but I was totally taken aback. It was amazing.”

Douce said she, too, was thrilled and that the award sets the tone for this year’s class.

“It’s an honor to be selected for Mortar Board, but it’s a special honor for your chapter to be nationally recognized,” she said. “I also think it speaks for OSU. I think the fact that some of our senior student leaders are nationally recognized speaks to what Ohio State University does for leadership and for our students.”

The chapter, looking forward to the next year, has big plans.

“We’re working on scholarships and increasing campus-wide awareness on different issues of social change through our emerging eminence program,” Giancola said.

Both Giancola and Douce said they are excited about the group’s upcoming Last Lecture Series. It is a set of events which invites faculty known by the chapter’s members to give a lecture as if it was their last, Douce said.

“And they’re very interesting because these are people who are sharing lessons on life,” she said.

The focus for the next year is not all service programs and scholarship, however. Giancola explained her plans for the coming year.

“I want to create an atmosphere that’s conducive to long-lasting friendships … everyone is so unique and amazing, and I just want everyone to have the opportunity to fully bond and appreciate the group of amazing people that the previous class has chosen,” Giancola said.

Douce also acknowledged the importance of the social aspect of the group.

“I think if you ask people … what was most important about being in Mortar Board, it was the friendships, the connections, the opportunity to interact with other people like yourself,” she said.

Douce said the award both commemorates the students of last year’s chapter and provides valuable inspiration for the future.

“It really says what you’re doing is important,” she said. “And I think at that point in graduation, no matter how skilled and talented you are, you’re entering a new phase … and that’s really a boost of confidence that says ‘you know what you’re doing, you’re doing important things.’”

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