History of the Ohio University Convocation Center

In an effort to increase enrollment to 25,000 students by 1975, Ohio University President Vernon Alden instituted the building of more than 20 buildings in the 1960s, which cost more than $100 million. One of them was the Convocation Center. In his book Speaking for Myself: The Personal Reflections of Vernon R. Alden, Alden claimed the Center “was far and away the most controversial.”

To be able to build it, Alden reached out to one of the richest men in Athens, Fred Beasley. Beasley was an auto dealership owner with many investments in coal mining and other endeavors around Southeast Ohio. Beasley pledged $1 million for the center, and the building would have been named the “Fred Beasley Center.”

Unfortunately, Beasley’s investments didn’t succeed, and a family member informed Alden that the donation would not be happening.

The Ohio University enrollment would never exceed 25,000 as current as of Fall 2017 according to Ohio University Office of Institutional Research. The fall in enrollment in the 1970s almost put Ohio University in a recession.

The Convocation Center serves as the “Mecca of Basketball” for Southeast Ohio, hosting the OHSAA Regional Tournament.

Seth Kelley, now an Ohio University sophomore, grew up in Ironton, Ohio. When he was in high school, playing at the Convo was the season goal.

“We go from playing in these high school gyms and everything to playing at the Convo,” Kelley says. “It’s unreal. It makes us feel like we’re playing in the big time.”

Many other schools from around Southeast Ohio also feel the same way.

“Today, thirty years later and named the Convocation Center, the building is spoken of with pride by all members of the university community and is featured as a showpiece in campus publications. When I now visit the campus and listen to many people taking credit for the building, I am reminded of President Kennedy’s wry comment ‘Success has many fathers; failure is an orphan.'”

-Vernon Alden, Speaking for Myself: The Personal Reflections of Vernon R. Alden

The Convocation Center will forever be a staple at Ohio University as it is the first thing you see when you enter campus off Richland Avenue.

What do you think of the Convo? What are your best memories there? Let us know in the comments below.

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