Ohio State’s Parent and Family Weekend has been evolving for decades. Credit: Courtesy of Ohio State Office of Student LifeOhio State’s Parent and Family Weekend has been evolving for decades. Credit: Courtesy of Ohio State Office of Student Life

From Dad’s Day to a weekend full of programming, Ohio State’s Parent and Family Weekend has grown from a handful activities to 38 packed into one weekend on campus. 

Parents visiting their Ohio State students this Friday and Saturday for the 2019 Parent and Family Weekend have the opportunity to participate in more than 38 activities, ranging from Ohio Stadium tours and planetarium visits to glass-blowing demos, according to Ohio State’s Parent and Family Relations website. 

Twenty-five years ago, the weekend featured 12 activities, according to a 1994 Ohio State press release. However, Ryan Lovell, senior director of parent and family relations, said the university has valued its relationship with families since the early 1900s.

“When you had a Franklin County Mom’s Club, and they would come and do events on campus, and then that relationship has evolved over the years, from Mom or Dad’s Day at football games to the more comprehensive programming that we have now that tries to encompass kind of the entire student experience,” Lovell said.  

An early turn toward a cohesive parents’ weekend came in the 1960s, according to previous reporting by The Lantern.

“Over the years, Dads’ Day has developed into a kind of parent’s weekend,” William C. Johannes, chairman of the Dads’ Day committee at the time, said to The Lantern in an article published Nov. 4, 1966. 

In 1969, “Festival of Parents” was the weekend’s theme, and honorary parents were chosen from names in a hat, according to a Lantern article from Oct. 30, 1969.  

The parent-themed weekend wasn’t all fun and games in 1980, when about 140 of the 180 members and guests of Delta Phi Epsilon who dined together at the Marriott Inn became ill in the 24 hours following the event, according to a Lantern article from April 25, 1980. 

In 1991, former University President Gordon E. Gee presented the idea for an annual parents’ weekend to a committee of representatives from across campus, according to a Lantern article from April 26, 1991. The weekend was centered around the Scarlet and Gray Football Scrimmage, and parents received packets with tickets and a schedule in the mail. 

Bill Wahl, former director of the Ohio State Parents Association, said to The Lantern in an Aug. 2, 1998, article that the 1998 weekend aimed to give parents a peek into their student’s experience. 

“The goal of Parents Weekend is to give parents the chance to get involved with their child, to have the opportunity to experience campus life, tour the university, be a part of school spirit, meet faculty and to create a vision to help parents feel welcome anytime,” Wahl said.

The 2006 parents’ weekend incorporated a charity element in which family members enjoyed a Buckeye Brunch benefiting Columbus Children’s Hospital sponsored by BuckeyeThon.

The 1998 parents’ weekend theme carried into 2011, when the goal was to help parents and students share in the Ohio State experience, Lovell said. 

“We believe this connection between student and family is an essential part of student success at Ohio State,” Lovell said. “Our schedule is designed to foster this understanding and allow for connections to be made within families.”

University spokesperson Dave Isaacs said in an email that the 2019 Parent and Family Weekend has more than 3,000 reservations and has grown in many ways over the decades. 

“The biggest [change] is in the size of the weekend. Thousands come each year, far more than did 25 years ago, and we have far more activities available, and more opportunities for parents and families to see what life at Ohio State [is] like for their student,” Isaacs said.