A Buckeye Through and Through
Ralph Lahmon had no plans to go to college. Not because he wasn’t a good student; his high school math teacher had encouraged him to take algebra and geometry because she recognized his academic promise, even though he wasn’t enrolled in a college preparatory track. But growing up in the mid-1950s as part of an Ohio farm family with 13 children — well, Lahmon just assumed that college would not be in his future.
After graduating from Homer High School in 1956, he found work remodeling houses and expected that along with some farming, his working life was set. But opportunity often shows up in unexpected ways, and thanks to the opening of Ohio State Newark in 1957, Lahmon’s life and career path changed forever
“If Ohio State hadn’t started a campus in Newark, I never would have gone to college,” said Lahmon.
In the autumn of 1957, he became part of the first group of Ohio State students to enroll at the university’s new regional campus in Newark. A man with a firm work ethic, abundant energy and determination, Lahmon worked during the day and drove back and forth to classes every evening.
Looking back, he credits his father and his minister with encouraging him to apply. “When I was in the seventh grade, I had rheumatic fever, which affected my heart,” recalled Lahmon. “I couldn’t play sports in high school and my father thought that college would give me job options other than physical labor.”
He attended Ohio State Newark for three quarters before heading to the Columbus campus in 1958. Once in Columbus, Lahmon’s life took some unexpected turns again. He met the love of his life, Linda, whom he married in 1960. But when she couldn’t work for a time due to a car accident, Lahmon scaled back his classes and worked to support the family. It was hard for the young couple to pay for a college education, but they believed that the opportunity Ohio State afforded was worth their sacrifices.
Lahmon graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in the spring of 1965. Almost immediately he began working for the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York. He would spend the next 27 years with the photography giant, at first designing facilities and later moving into energy management and processing. During his very successful career, Lahmon also had the opportunity to travel the world for Kodak, visiting places he had never dreamed of seeing while growing up on the farm in Ohio — places like Australia, Brazil, France and Singapore.
He retired from Kodak in 1992 and worked as an energy management consultant for a time, advising companies on building new facilities. During all of those years in Rochester, amidst career success and raising a family, there was something else that held Lahmon’s passion — his alma mater.
“We’re Buckeyes at heart,” said Lahmon. Both daughters, Kacee and Kim, are Ohio State alumnae, and the family recently celebrated their third-generation Ohio State graduation with granddaughter Rachael.
Lahmon, and Linda, proudly profess their devotion to Ohio State, and evidence of that devotion is plentiful. For their loyalty and generosity through cumulative annual giving, the Lahmons have been recognized through membership in Ohio State’s President’s Club. They are also lifetime members of the alumni association and longtime members of the Buckeye Club. Ohio State football season ticket holders since 1982, they’ve attended every football championship game since then.
Now retired, the couple resides in Glenford on 22 acres in Perry County. Lahmon holds true to his farming roots and keeps active maintaining apple and peach orchards, and growing strawberries and raspberries. He’s grateful for the many opportunities he’s had throughout his life, but is quick to point out how it all started: taking that first step to Ohio State Newark — and a world of new opportunities.
The Ohio State University at Newark offers an academic environment that’s inclusive of diversity, challenging but supportive with world-renowned professors and access to Ohio State’s more than 200 majors. It’s where learning comes to life. Research, study abroad and service learning opportunities prepare students for their careers in ways they never expected.