Military reunion honors Cincinnatus recipient

Jim OliveYoungstown State University’s Office of Alumni and Events Management will welcome military alumni back to their alma mater this weekend when it hosts the annual YSU Veterans and ROTC Alumni Reunion.

The reunion celebration will begin on Friday at 5:30 p.m. with a dinner in Williamson Hall’s atrium. Dinner attendees will then watch Saturday’s football game against South Dakota State University in a block of reserved seating.

Maj. Rick Williams, coordinator of the Office of Veterans Affairs, helped plan this year’s reunion.

“It’s an exciting event. Probably more so for the alumni that come because they get to see old friends, old buddies, and just catch up on how things are being done today as opposed to the way it was done when they were here,” Williams said. “We try to get as many alumni to come back to YSU to celebrate the achievements of both the ROTC and the veterans office here at YSU.”

During Friday’s dinner, Jim Olive, former and founding coordinator of the Office of Veterans Affairs, will receive the Cincinnatus Award for the services he provided to veterans working toward a college education.

Olive said he struggled to make the transition from active soldier to college student when he began school in 1968. He, therefore, wanted to make YSU a more welcoming place for its veteran students.

“I had just returned home from Vietnam and I wanted to use my benefits because I didn’t know what I was going to do. So I used my benefits, my GI bill, to enroll at YSU,” Olive said. “Let’s just say the first few years were challenging. They were rough. They were very rough. There was nowhere to go who understood veterans’ issues and concerns.”

As someone who does understand veterans’ issues and concerns, Olive devoted his time as coordinator to help better their educational experience at YSU. He established general education classes that were offered exclusively to veteran students as well as counseling services and study and social lounges.

“YSU is a great place to be now that we are veteran-friendly,” Olive said. “It’s a great honor to see that we’ve come so far in about 45 years, and it is a great honor to be a part of that.”

Williams commended Olive for the work he has done for veterans.

“We thought it was right to recognize [Olive] for this award,” Williams said. “Jim Olive did so much as far as putting together the Office of Veterans Affairs here at YSU. … There are a lot of benefits that he put in place for veterans at YSU, and I’m going to try to carry that on having succeeded him.”

The Office of Veteran Affairs will look to expand its operations next fall when the Veterans Resource Center opens.