OSU influence looms large in southwest Ohio

OSU president Michael Drake and other Ohio State Roads Scholars look at a historical marker for Isaac Wise Plum Street Temple in downtown Cincinnati.

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OSU president Michael Drake and other Ohio State Roads Scholars look at a historical marker for Isaac Wise Plum Street Temple in downtown Cincinnati.

Drake, other top OSU brass, tour area, meet with alumni.

He’s no governor or mayor, but Ohio State University President Michael Drake is nearly as influential as one.

Even in Bearcat country, where Drake visited this week during OSU’s annual Roads Scholars Tour of Ohio, he is immediately recognized wherever he goes.

Drake, now in his fourth year as president, was reminded again this week about the reach his university has in just about every corner of the state.

RELATED: Ohio State wants to offer students a tuition guarantee "When we travel on these tours, we go to the biggest cities and the smallest towns and there's something representing Ohio State every place we go," Drake said. "Every place we go. It's true."

At Emery Oleochemicals, a chemical plant in Cincinnati, he listened as company officials rattled off five ongoing collaborations with Ohio State.

This is the 20th year for the bus tour, which focused on southwest Ohio this year after touring northwest Ohio last year and the Cleveland area the year before.

The tour is a way for OSU to "get some of the context" of Ohio, said provost Bruce McPheron.RELATED: College president pay: Who are Ohio's highest paid

It’s also not a bad recruitment vehicle, with students and top brass at one of the nation’s largest universities showing interest in what’s going on in places like Dayton, Wilmington and the Western Agricultural Research Station near South Charleston in Clark County, where Ohio State scientists conduct research into innovative farming practices.

In Dayton, the group visited the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park and Wright Brothers Museum.

“(The Wright Brothers) would have made good faculty members,” joked Stephen Meyers, OSU associate provost who leads the tour.

McPheron, who lived and worked in southwest Ohio for several years, called it “a really fascinating part of the state with lots of different components.”

Drake left the tour after Thursday's events to head to Washington, D.C., joking that he's spending a lot more time there now than he did in his previous job as chancellor of University of California at Irvine.RELATED: Are colleges hurting U.S.? Majority of Republicans think so

“I think we have very good relationship with people across the aisle and in both houses and in the executive branch,” Drake said. “So it’s been good to try to continue those dialogues and there’s been more of that here as the president of Ohio State.”

Last November, Drake entered the national spotlight when he spoke in front of the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State and updated the world on the conditions of the victims after a man drove a car into a crowd of people, jumped out and began stabbing whoever he saw.

Drake said he’s rarely asked about the incident now, and prefers to focus on what the university can do to move forward.

Of his role as president, he said, “It’s a great privilege.”

Quick facts about Ohio State University

56,064: Total number of full- and part-time students.

40,851: Total number of undergraduates.

8,073: Total number of faculty.

$23,025: Estimated annual cost to attend, including tuition, room and board, books and fees.

Source: Cappex.com, based on 2014 data.

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