Courtesy of Gino DePinto
Jerry DePizzo and Marc Roberge attended the same freshman orientation at Ohio State in 1997. As it turned out, three of Roberge’s friends, also natives of Rockville, Md., – Chris Culos, Benj Gershman and Richard On – were coming to OSU as well and with a plan. And unbeknownst to them, DePizzo would soon become part of it.
He became the fifth member of their band Of A Revolution, more widely known as O.A.R.
O.A.R. is scheduled to return to its alma mater Thursday to perform as the featured act at Rock The Oval, a concert in celebration of the university kicking off its “But for Ohio State” campaign.
“We’re really excited,” DePizzo, saxophonist, guitarist and backup vocalist, said of the concert. “It’s extra special to come back to the university under the invitation of the university. And this is the first time in well, a decade, that that’s been the case.”
The “But for Ohio State” campaign is a fundraising initiative with the intent of raising $2.5 billion for OSU, according to a university press release.
The campaign’s title was inspired from a 2011 quote from Les Wexner, former chairman of OSU’s Board of Trustees and the CEO of Limited Brands, Inc.
“But for Ohio State, I would have never been able to go to college,” Wexner said during the announcement of a $100 million donation to the university on Feb. 16, 2011, according to a university release.
Jeff Kaplan, senior vice president for Advancement, said the university hopes to reach its goal in 2016.
“This is critical dollars for our support,” Kaplan said. “It’s for educational assistance and scholarships, it’s for faculty research and faculty support along with a number of other things.”
He estimated that 700 people, in addition to the students, are expected to attend the fundraising kick off.
DePizzo said he left the university in 2001 without a degree, while the rest of the band graduated or dropped out as well. Alumnus or not, DePizzo still credits OSU for his and the band’s success.
“If it wasn’t for the school and its makeup, I don’t think we (O.A.R.) would have the career that we have today,” he said. “I think we are a quintessential success story of the university … There’s not a whole lot of places where we would have had the same opportunity.”
Jon Lampley, a fifth-year in jazz studies, is a touring trumpet player with O.A.R., said OSU has been integral to his success.
“But for Ohio State, I wouldn’t be … living out my dream of playing music on a huge stage with an awesome band,” Lampley said. “Not only the education … the people that I’ve met here have been direct influences on me, helping me to become a better musician and helping me to achieve my ideas and my dreams. Being at Ohio State was the reason (I tour with O.A.R.), because they have an association with Ohio State … had I not been at this university, that connection would have never been there.”
DePizzo said OSU was the reason his fellow bandmates chose to move from Maryland.
“They came to Ohio State for a very specific reason, and that’s one, to get an education, but two, because of what it was and what it is and what it stands for. They knew that if they were successful at Ohio State, they would be able to be successful throughout the country,” DePizzo said. “Something pretty smart for a bunch of 16-, 17-year-old kids to think about at the time, but it certainly worked. They knew that it was a really big school, people from all over the world would come to travel to attend the university, and that word of mouth would spread from there.”
He added, “it’s great” to be a part of the university campaign.
“It raises the awareness of the university throughout the country in a very positive way,” DePizzo said. “It highlights success stories of the school and its ability … not only educate but provide opportunity for people once they leave with a degree or with an education from Ohio State. Ohio State is a living, breathing, thriving entity that really breathes new life and blood into this community and state every day. It’s pretty amazing.”
Seth Stemen, a fifth-year in psychology, said he thinks “it’s awesome” that OSU chose to bring O.A.R. to kick off the campaign.
“I think it’ll get the students excited about (the campaign),” Stemen said. “Ohio State houses so many different, great, successful people and O.A.R.’s definitely one of them.”
The concert, however, isn’t getting every student excited for the campaign.
“I’m not a huge fan of O.A.R. personally, so that’s why it didn’t really attract me right away,” said Kyle Barth, a first-year in pharmaceutical sciences.
As an OSU student, Lampley said he feels special to be a part of the university’s campaign.
“I feel like not only am I fortunate to be able to be a part of the show, but it’s like, I’m a part of this campaign as well,” Lampley said. “It’s kind of cool to be able to almost represent the student body on the stage. It’s pretty surreal to be honest.”
Rock The Oval, which is free to students, faculty, staff and alumni, is scheduled to begin 8 p.m. Thursday on the Oval with a pre-concert show. According to the Ohio Union Activities Board, Rock the Oval will include appearances from the OSU Marching Band, special guests and videos. O.A.R. is scheduled to take the stage at 9:30 p.m.