As a teenager, Cathy Sankey, ’75, never ventured far from the small, Appalachian town of Marietta, Ohio, where she grew up.
“We’d never been on a family vacation, never traveled,” she said. “I had never been out of state except just across the bridge to West Virginia.”
Her dad, a disabled veteran from the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II, was her hero. Yet his status set their family apart. “In the 1960s, if your father can’t work, and your mother works part time as a secretary, you’re already different from everyone else on the street,” Sankey said.
They didn’t always have enough money for food, and Sankey certainly had never been on a college campus. But as a teen, she wanted to go to college because her 10th-grade English teacher inspired her.
“Doris Curtis was the only Black teacher in Marietta City Schools at that point,” Sankey said. “Our later discussions were about how she had to go above and beyond to prove herself. In other words, she was a really good teacher. Because I had a great interest in English, in reading and writing, she encouraged me. She told me, ‘You can be an English teacher.’”
Her father could pay for her college tuition, room and board through the GI Bill, so he asked her where she wanted to go.
Sankey named several universities where her high school friends where going – Miami University, Bowling Green and Ohio State. Her father didn’t know where any of them were.
“Ohio State is in Columbus,” she said. Her father knew how to get to Columbus, so that’s where Sankey went.
‘Ohio State changed my life. I want to change someone else’s’
“We’re all driven in the College of Education and Human Ecology to help change lives,” Sankey said. “Whether you’re in education or the human ecology area – dietetics or kinesiology.”
Coming from a low-income, Appalachian family, Sankey values the skills and knowledge she gained at Ohio State that led her to put her drive to work. She gives back because her degree prepared her to change lives during 15 years as a teacher, another 15 as a school administrator (the last nine as principal of Jerome High School, Dublin City Schools). Today, she is founder and president of See. Believe. Do. LLC.
Sankey also wants to help more students from Appalachian Ohio, just as a donor helped her with a scholarship for students from southeastern Ohio, which paid for her books and fees.
She gives to honor her family’s three-generations of Ohio State graduates. She met her husband, a mechanical engineer, at Ohio State through her best friend from Marietta.
“Jeff’s father graduated in engineering in the 1940s,” Sankey said. “And our daughter, Jennifer, first earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, then a master’s degree in education and is now a teacher of English learners in Dublin Schools.”
Sankey’s key reason for giving: “We love Ohio State.”
Cathy Sankey, ’75 BS English Communications, and her husband, Jeff Sankey, ‘75, Mechanical Engineering, created the Sankey Family Scholarship. Each year, it provides a scholarship for an engineering student and a student majoring in education from Cathy’s first choice, Marietta (Ohio) High School, or from Washington County or Appalachia.
The photo above shows Cathy Sankey (left) and her 2019 scholarship recipient Olivia Secrest from Belpre, a small town near Marietta, Ohio, along with Jeff Sankey (right) and his 2019 engineering scholarship recipient Nathan Jackson.