Ohio State athletics department to donate $25,000 to scholarship in honor of fallen Marine and former Buckeye wrestler
COLUMBUS, Ohio The Ohio State University John Glenn School of Public Affairs held a ceremony Thursday at Page Hall to announce the establishment of the Major Ray Mendoza Leadership Scholarship.
A wrestler at Ohio State from 1992-93, Mendoza was deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in June 2003. Mendoza was promoted to the rank of Major Oct. 1, 2005 in the operational theatre, commanding Echo Company.
On Nov. 14, 2005, Major Mendoza died of wounds sustained during Operation Steel Curtain in New Ubaydi, Iraq.
The Mendoza scholarship will serve as a base for the proposed Major Ray Mendoza Leadership Institute at the Glenn School.
“Our country is in need of leaders like Major Mendoza.” Dr. Charles Wise, director of the Glenn School, said in the opening remarks of the ceremony. “We will recruit, teach and graduate men and women who will follow in Ray’s footsteps and lead our communities at all levels.”
During Wise’s opening statements, he also announced a gift from the Ohio State athletics department to the Mendoza Scholarship fund.
“Ray Mendoza has many families,” Wise said. “He has his biological family … his marine family, and the Ohio State athletics family.
“I received word today the Ohio State athletics family has decided to make a very generous $25,000 gift in support of the Ray Mendoza Scholarship efforts,” Wise continued. “Ohio State athletics director, Gene Smith, is here with us today and I want to extend my appreciation to him and the others representing the Ohio State athletics department who have made this possible.”
The Mendoza scholarship was initiated through the efforts of Mike DiSabato and Heath and Shireen Eddleblute. DiSabato and Heath Eddleblute were wrestling teammates and close friends with Mendoza.
“I want to thank Mr. Smith for coming,” DiSabato, a four-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree from 1988-91, said. “Ray was a Buckeye, and once a Buckeye, always a Buckeye. To the athletics department, we really do appreciate the gift.”
Mendoza’s wife Karen was the final speaker at the event. She was preceded by Senator John Glenn, Ohio representative in the U.S. Senate from 1974-98, and Russ Hellickson, Ohio State wrestling head coach from 1986-2006.
Audio from all of the event’s speakers is available at the links above.
Karen Mendoza, Ray Mendoza’s wife
“Being a Buckeye was always true to our hearts. (Ray) carried the Buckeye in the pocket wherever he went; through the streets of Fallujah to his last days in Iraq. I met Ray at Ohio State and for this to happen at Ohio State means the world to me. It does.
“The way the university and athletics department honored Ray (at the Illinois football game) was just beautiful. I did not hear a word they said. All I remember is two things: how I felt and my son going “O-H” and 100,000 people yelling back “I-O.” Glorious was that day. This is quite amazing. To have his name tied to John Glenn it is amazing to say.”
Senator John Glenn
“Today is a day to channel the memories and the heartache into something positive and constructive for the future.We’re proud to have his name and his memory associated with our school, where his interests can live on. That is the point to be made today.”
At the conclusion of his remarks, Glenn presented Alek Mendoza, Ray’s son, with his tie clasp in memory of his father.
Russ Hellickson, former Ohio State wrestling head coach
“He was there all the time to honor the commitment he had made when he became a part of our athletics program. Ray was loyal to his teammates and this university without exception. I do not remember any time when Ray did not come into any practice with a big, wide smile on his face. Ray was so full of enthusiasm for life. Even in defeat, he found a way to recognize the value of what had happened and perhaps more of us should recognize more of the greater lessons in life come in defeat rather than victory.
“When I was a young boy, heroes were those guys who wore capes and masks and had super powers. In the real world, heroes are human beings and Ray is one of my heroes. Heroes many times lead a life overly positive but sometimes death makes them so heroic. I believe Ray’s life and death were heroic. I cannot think of a better thing to honor him for all time than what is happening here today.”
Release compiled by Pat Kindig, Ohio State Athletics
For more information on the John Glenn School of Public Affairs visit www.osu.edu.