Feb. 15, 2007

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Sitting amongst a sea of scarlet shirts and scarves on game day with cheers of O-H-I-O reverberating around Ohio Stadium, it is easy to see why Buckeye fans love Ohio State. The university is saturated in a rich heritage with traditions such as Script Ohio and “Hang on Sloopy” at the end of the third quarter. But as shouts of “O-H” and the requisite reply of “I-O” ring through the air, it also is easy to forget the people who founded these endearing traditions.

Mary Jane (Riese) Brand, Evelyn (Ferrell) Keseg, Helen Freyhoff, Gwen (White) and Bill Buschman met at Columbus’ South High School. The group of friends graduated from the school in 1936 and 1937. After high school, the clique dispersed about the world, but not before attending The Ohio State University. Now, they fondly regard Ohio State as part of the bond that has made their friendships so strong. However, the same high school diploma and a love for the Buckeyes is not all the friends share.

Brand, who took extra classes to graduate from South High early, was the first of the friends to graduate in 1936. She enrolled at Ohio State where she received her degree in physical education. After graduating from Ohio State in 1940, she married fellow Buckeye Dr. Roscoe Brand Jr., and became a teacher in the Columbus school system. Her tenure as a teacher included a few years at her alma mater, South High School. As a freshman at Ohio State, Brand witnessed the first Script Ohio, which she now regards as one of her favorite traditions. She also she enjoys “Carmen Ohio” and watching Ohio State play on the gridiron. However, it is the people she loves the most.

“The thing that always meant so much to me is the tremendous spirit we Buckeyes have,” Brand said.

Brand recalled attending games when tickets were less than $1 and general-admission seating was plentiful. Although she remembers a very different environment than today’s game day, her she has always remained a loyal fan.

“We have had tickets for 69 years,” she announced proudly. “It would have been 70, but we lived in Texas one year.” To this day, Brand travels from Florida to take in two or three games a year in the Horseshoe.

Nurturing their love for Ohio State, Brand and her husband began donating to a general Ohio State athletic scholarship fund. Even though her husband has passed away, Brand continues to contribute to the fund. Her generosity makes it possible for student-athletes to attend the academic institution of which Brand is so proud.

Evelyn Keseg retired from Nationwide Communications. She established an athletic scholarship endowment in 1993 for a student-athlete who is a member of the football team. Evelyn passed away a year later in 1994.

Freyhoff, clad from head to toe in scarlet fabric, also is a faithful patron. She, like Brand, graduated with a degree in physical education. However, after trying her hand at it for two years, she opted not to teach. Instead, her magnetic love for the university pulled her back when she began working at the athletic ticket office in 1947. There, Freyhoff fueled a love for the Buckeyes that her family ignited in her when she was growing up.

“We grew up on Ohio State football,” she said. “I went to the Notre Dame game in 1935. They beat us in the last minute and a half with two touchdowns.”

Not only can Freyhoff recall the stats and players of a game 71 years ago, she can also recount stories of meeting legendary coaches such as Woody Hayes and Larry Snyder. However, it is her contribution to Ohio State that makes her legendary.

Although organized sports did not exist for women while she was in college, Freyhoff makes it possible for young women to realize their collegiate athletic dreams with her scholarship in women’s basketball. Freyhoff became the first woman to endow a scholarship for a female sport when she did so in 1987.

While Freyhoff and Brand were enrolled in the university, Bill Buschman and Gwen White fell in love and got married. Bill began his education, but feeling like a draft dodger, he voluntarily left from 1942-45 to fight in World War II. He remembered his enlistment in relation to the infamous rivalry between the Buckeyes and Wolverines.

“We were flying to Hawaii waiting for some assignment,” Bill said. “Ohio State was playing Michigan in a typical game. Les Horvath was in his last year. They were beating us 13-12 in the fourth quarter and he took them down the field for the winning touchdown. We won the game 18-12 and we won the national championship that year.”

After returning to Ohio State, Bill finished his studies in geological sciences in 1948 and accepted a job in Venezuela for eight years. Despite living on another continent, Bill and Gwen planned their vacation time around Ohio State football season. After living in Venezuela, the couple migrated to Columbia where they lived for six years. The year of their return to America escaped them, but not the athletic event associated with it.

“We went all through the Southwest looking for a job,” Bill recalled, “Ohio State was playing Southern California in the Los Angeles Coliseum. We said, `What are we doing here?’ So, we got in the car and drove to the game. Then we left there and went to Las Vegas to see Jack Nicklaus play in a golf tournament.”

Later, after traveling to attend yet another Ohio State football game, the Buschman’s realized the cheerleading squad was not up to par with those of other teams. At the time, Ohio State did not send its cheerleading team to away games. Not wanting Ohio State to be outdone, the couple approached the university about donating to the sport.

“Coming home from the game, we ran into the cheerleaders at a gas station,” Bill explained. “They had driven to the game on their own. The school didn’t send them to away games. That is what lit the candle in our head, that’s why we started the scholarship. We wanted to do something to help.”

In 1983, the pair began the William J. and Gwendolyn W. Buschman Scholarship Fund. Now the scholarship not only endows a cheerleader, but also a baseball player.

While the close circle of friends graduated from their high school during the Depression, they are now prosperous enough to donate to The Ohio State University. Their history here, full of memories and archives including Woody Hayes’ hat, is as rich as the one they have created. The group could not be happier with the direction of the university, but Brand leaves just one last request.

“I watch the games at a restaurant at home in Florida now,” Brand said. “The first time I went, I was by myself. But one group of fans said, `You’ve got the right colors on, sit down.’ That’s just they way Ohio State fans are. It is the Buckeye spirit. I hope the young people carry it on.