A secret desk located in Orton Hall that contains encouraging notes kept in the drawers written by students for other students. Credit: Cori Wade | Assistant Photo Editor

“This desk saved me today.” 

Carefully written in black cursive on the back of folded-up notebook paper, these words invite further reading. 

“I’ve sobbed myself to sleep every night this semester,” the note says. “Last night I wanted to hurt myself. I sat at this desk so no one would see me crying. Little did I know why the universe brought me to this spot today. This is the first time since getting to college that I don’t feel alone … you’ve all empowered me and reminded me I’m not alone. I can’t tell you how much this desk saved me today.”

The note ends, “Thank you for serving me.” It is unsigned. 

This note is one of many placed in the drawers of the “secret desk”on the first floor of Orton Library near the windows overlooking the Oval. 

Below the first entry was a heartfelt response neatly printed in purple ink. 

“Sweet human, I feel for you … I promise the darkness will not last forever. Please reach out and hug others so you can be held in their light. With love, AN 2/19/19.” 

A secret desk located in Orton Hall that contains encouraging notes kept in the drawers written by students for other students. Credit: Cori Wade | Assistant Photo Editor

According to University Archives, the desk was loaned to Ohio State by the Orton Ceramic Foundation in October 2012 and received its first correspondence May 16, 2013, from someone nicknamed the “secret desk creator.” 

Patti Dittoe, a library associate, said she first noticed the notes around that time. 

“It was just something random that started to occur,” Dittoe said. “I was amazed. There are little notes tucked in each of the little drawers, each with a different story to tell. Some of them are very personal.” 

Dittoe said the desk once belonged to Edward Orton Jr., the son of Ohio State’s first president and an alumnus, and has become a discrete staple of the library. In the drawers that were once filled with memos about geology and academics, students have stashed confessions, advice, secrets, sketches and dreams — pouring their lives on scraps of paper for anyone to discover. 

The notes left in Orton Jr.’s desk include professions of love, inspirational quotes, numbers to call for a rant, poetry, marriage pacts with strangers, the sharing of secret struggles, complaints about the librarian, jokes, hopes for the future, Ohio State memories and more. 

Kara Kuhnash, a third-year in finance, said she first saw the old secretary’s desk during an activity with her Second-year Transformational Experience Program group and decided to study there the next opportunity she had. It was during this study session that she said she discovered the desk’s secret notes. 

“I got distracted because I kept opening all the drawers,” Kuhnash said. “I got lost in all of them.” 

Kuhnash said she felt she was uncovering the hidden thoughts and feelings of students who had sat at the desk before her and was inspired by their courage and kindness to write a note of her own. 

“I wanted to be a part of that,” Kuhnash said. “I wanted to write a note to help someone’s day be better.”  

Kara Galvan, an alumna, said she found the desk during the most stressful week of her college career.  

“I just thought it was incredible,” Galvan said. “So many of the drawers were filled and not one time had I heard of this desk. My motto this semester has been, ‘Keep going,’ and so many of the notes had that message. It was so uplifting. It restored some of my faith in humanity.”