Graffs 1997

Ohio University graduate Frank Graff and his daughter, Catherine, are seen in this photo taken in 1997 in front of the Class Gateway on OHIO’s Athens Campus.

Photo courtesy of: The Graff Family

Graffs 2014

Ohio University graduate Frank Graff and his daughter, Catherine, who is now a first-year student at OHIO, are seen in this photo taken during this fall’s Dads Weekend in front of the Class Gateway on OHIO’s Athens Campus.

Photo courtesy of: The Graff Family

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A Dads Weekend 17 years in the making: Photos highlight family’s OHIO legacy

Ohio University’s annual Family Weekends are a particularly memorable part of the OHIO experience, bringing relatives to the Athens Campus to share in a little piece of their Bobcat’s college adventure.

Ohio University hosted its annual Dads Weekend Nov. 7-9, but for first-year OHIO student Catherine Graff and her father, Frank, annual opportunities for the two to explore the campus together began long before she became a Bobcat.

Frank Graff attended Ohio University from 1978 to 1983, earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in political science.

“Everyone was so welcoming,” Frank said of his OHIO experience. “Students, residence life staff, professors and everyone else wanted to help you do your best. … You were encouraged to get involved and to get out of your comfort zone and try new things. Success in college is all about relationship building, as well as time management, and the atmosphere at OHIO promotes that.”

Frank said his favorite Ohio University memories include anchoring his first WOUB-AM and WOUB-TV newscasts, playing intramural broomball and inner tube water polo, and having dinner with former men’s basketball coach Danny Nee in the Boyd Hall cafeteria with his floor section.

After graduation, Frank stayed in contact with many of the close friends he made as a resident assistant in Sargent Hall.

“We’ve kept that ‘family atmosphere’ that OHIO is known for going strong for 30 years,” Frank said of these ongoing friendships. “We started getting together soon after graduation, attending weddings all over the country. … And in years when nobody was getting married, we gathered at Homecoming.”

Catherine began tagging along on these reunions at a young age, as illustrated in the photo of Frank and his daughter to the left, which was taken in the fall of 1997 when Frank’s group of OHIO friends gathered on the Athens Campus for OHIO’s annual Homecoming celebration. When the children of other members of the group became Bobcats, they even decided to turn Moms and Dads Weekends into “Aunts” and “Uncles” Weekends.

“My dad and all of his college friends had such a blast when they would get together for Homecoming, and I would watch them and think, ‘That’s what I want to find in college,’” Catherine said. “I want to find a place where I will meet people who I will still talk to 20 years later. They were all so close and would make the effort to go back to the place where they met and bring their kids with them. I grew up a Bobcat and it stuck with me.”

As Catherine began her college search, she knew she needed a school with the same small-town feel as Athens. She soon realized that this was a unique quality not shared by many other higher education institutions.

“I found a couple of schools that I really liked, but none of them really felt the same way to me that Ohio University did,” Catherine said, explaining the reason she decided to enroll at OHIO. “When it came to touring the campuses, I felt more comfortable here than I did at the others.”

Catherine just wrapped up her first semester at OHIO, where she is studying middle childhood language arts and social studies education at the Patton College of Education – thanks in large part, according to Frank, to the Next Generation Award she received from the University. She has taken advantage of the many ways to get involved on campus by participating in Young Life and joining the Quidditch team.

“Several of Frank’s college friends earned their education degrees from Ohio University, so we already knew this was a great school for Catherine as she trains to be a teacher,” said her mother, Gail Graff, who studied journalism at the University of Maryland.

“When we went to the Ohio Showcase for accepted students last February, the presenters from the education department were so excited to share the story of their program. There was an energy that we did not see at Catherine’s ‘second choice’ university,” she added.

Since Catherine made her decision to attend Ohio University, she and Frank have enjoyed bonding over their love for the University and sharing stories about their experiences. They even took the opportunity over Dads Weekend to recreate the photo they took together in 1997 in front of the Class Gateway leading to College Green.

“My dad and I were close before (I enrolled at OHIO), but going to his alma mater has made our relationship as father and daughter even more special. It has been so fun to see my dad come on campus and take me to the different locations where he spent his time,” Catherine said, adding that on her first tour of OHIO’s residence halls they visited the room Frank had lived in his first year here. “He was so animated with his stories and I could tell that he was enjoying himself, and it made me really happy.”  

“It has been such a treat to show her around campus, to tell her about the traditions and to help ease the nerves that the start of college life brings. But while I may give advice, I let her make her own choices because I don’t want to relive my college years. This is her time to learn, have fun, try new things and grow. We have our shared experience and then I step out of the way,” Frank said of their growing bond.