Ashbrook Center ribbon cutting

Ashbrook Center’s new home in College of Education dedicated

Published on Oct. 06, 2022
History and Political Science

Jean Ashbrook helped cut the ribbon.

In the library, Sally Schramm greeted attendees.

And Marv Krinsky and Jeff Sikkenga welcomed the crowd Saturday, Oct. 1, to the Ashbrook Center’s new home in the Dwight Schar College of Education building on the Ashland University campus with brief remarks highlighting its nearly 40-year history.

“John would be so proud,” Ashbrook said about the dedication of the new location for the independent academic center, established in 1983 and named in honor of her late husband, Congressman John M. Ashbrook. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Ohio’s 17th Congressional District for more than 20 years before his death in 1982 at age 53. She completed her husband’s final term in office and now is an honorary Ashbrook board member.

Krinsky, Ashbrook’s chairman of the board since 1998, joined Ashbrook in cutting the ribbon after he talked about her late husband and others who helped make the center what it is today. Among those he credited was the late Peter Schramm, who was its executive director for nearly 20 years and whose name honors the center’s new library, which has about 6,000 books Schramm collected.

“I don’t think he would’ve been surprised by the growth,” said Schramm’s widow, Sally, who is a senior director of the Ashbrook Center and responsible for “telling the Center’s story – explaining how the Center is teaching and helping others teach what it means to be American.”

While Ashbrook’s only other home on the eighth floor of the Archer Library held many memories, Sikkenga, the Ashbrook executive director, noted the much larger second floor space in its new building is needed to accommodate the center’s growth.

“The growth has been phenomenal,” said Sikkenga, who has been involved with Ashbrook since 1997. “This facility will allow us to accommodate that growth and grow more. Plus, we’re able to keep the personal feel of the program.”

When Sikkenga came to Ashbrook 25 years ago, it had 27 Ashbrook Scholars and a couple hundred teachers in its network. Today, there are close to 150 Ashbrook Scholars and almost 30,000 teachers in its network across the country. The Ashbrook Scholar program is a rigorous and top-rated academic program for AU undergraduate students majoring or minoring in political science, political economy or history.

As part of its five-year strategic plan, Ashbrook wants to continue to expand the scholar program to 250 students, add more academies for high school students and grow its graduate program, as well as host more seminars and events for the community.

“We’re going to be the recognized national leader in civic education and this is the headquarters where it’s going to happen,” Sikkenga told the crowd on hand for the dedication.

Sikkenga thanked many others, including AU President Carlos Campo, AU Vice President of Operations & Planning Rick Ewing and Bob and Jan Archer, who were major donors to the project.

In addition to thanking many of the same people, Krinsky spent much of his talk reflecting on those who have passed away who were instrumental in Ashbrook’s development, including Tom Van Meter, Fred Lennon, F. Clifton White, Bill Rusher, Chuck Parton, Roger Beckett and, of course, John Ashbrook and Peter Schramm. The latter was born in Hungary and immigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was 10 years old in 1956 to flee the Communist government there at the time.

“Ashbrook’s reputation around the country can be attributed in great part to what Peter established,” said Krinsky, who added that Schramm’s passion was teaching about the freedoms in America.

President Ronald Reagan helped the Ashbrook Center start strong by personally dedicating it in 1983. Since then, the John M. Ashbrook Memorial Dinner has had many nationally and internationally known speakers, including George H.W. Bush, Margaret Thatcher and Mike Pence.

“John Ashbrook’s conservative ideals have served us well now for over 40 years and will continue to serve us well,” Krinsky said.

Great leadership and staff over the years is the reason Ashbrook is where it is today, according to Krinsky.

“I know all those I’ve talked about would be proud to see what Ashbrook has become,” he said.