On February 8, 1971, Richard McKenzie of Wilmington College, sent a letter to fourteen representatives of college cooperative education programs in Ohio and suggested they meet in Columbus to discuss the advancement of co-op. Based on the responses to his letter, the group met on May 3, 1971, for the purpose of: "establishing a state group that could be effective in securing a higher degree of visibility for the Cooperative Education Association." At that time, the formalization of the Association was limited to the development of a member roster and the collection of the member dues.
Over the months, communications continued and on November 16, 1973, a meeting was held in Columbus, Ohio. The ten participating members were: Richard McKenzie, Robert P. Custis, Carol A. Grisby, and Jim Puthoff, Sinclair Community College; Joseph A. Maneri, Columbus Technical Institute; Douglas Nelson, Baldwin Wallace College; Bob Williams, Central State University; Christopher L. Knott, Cleveland State University; John R. Martin, University of Cincinnati; and Terry Grajek, State of Ohio Personnel Office. They endorsed the formal establishment of a State Association with goals to be similar to those of the National Cooperative Education Association. John Martin was asked to use the CEA Constitution as a model for the new state group. Thus, at a meeting on February 8, 1974, the Constitution and the By-Laws for the "Ohio Cooperative Education Association (OCEA)" were approved. Also, at this meeting, the first officers were selected. Chris Knott, Cleveland State University, was elected President and Chuck Jonas, Cincinnati Technical College, was elected President-Elect. Those present at this meeting were Richard McKenzie, Robert P. Custis, Carol A. Grisby, Jim Puthoff, Joseph A. Maneri, Christopher L. Knott, John R. Martin, Chuck Jonas, Marshall McGee (Central State University), Leonard Slominski (Lakeland Community College), and Jim Peoples (Cleveland State University).
Over the next few years, the Association began to grow, member services expanded, committees were established, employers were encouraged to participate, and single-day annual meetings were scheduled. OCEA was gradually becoming a voice for co-op in Ohio. In 1975, OCEA was successful in receiving a State of Ohio Resolution from the House of Representatives recognizing the week of May 18, 1975, as Ohio's first "Cooperative Education Week." This not only brought some important recognition but also resulted in a week of promotional activities for co-op throughout the state. Also, 1975-1978 was a period when OCEA officers spent a significant amount of time developing a position regarding the newly formed "Midwest Cooperative Education Association (MCEA)." Much effort went into influencing the evolution of that group and trying to determine the appropriate OCEA relationship with MCEA.
On May 20, 1975, at the OCEA annual meeting, Wanda B. Mosbacker, University of Cincinnati, received a special plaque and commendation for her years of service to cooperative education and to OCEA. She was also awarded honorary membership. This award was presented during the year when Wanda announced her retirement. Since then, six additional Ohio Co-op leaders have been given honorary membership in OCEA: Robert Aylesworth, Joseph W. Cole, Robert P. Custis, John Martin, Ralph McNerney and William C. Wilson.
The 1978-79 member year was the transition from the development phase to maturity for OCEA. Starting in June 1978, with 27 college and 6 employer members, an aggressive membership campaign was launched that resulted in 153 members by the end of the year. Sixty-three (63) of the new members were employers. During that year, the Association's first overnight, two-day conference was held in Cleveland, Ohio, with 85 participants. Ed Janning, University of Dayton, was presented with the first outstanding member recognition award, an Association Newsletter was developed, the Ohio Director to the MCEA Executive Board was given ex officio status on OCEA Executive Board, the treasury was doubled, and the Association emerged as one of the largest state co-op group in the country.
During the 1980’s, OCEA continued to grow with membership approaching 200, conference attendance stabilizing at approximately 100-125 participants, and there was strong employer involvement. Formalization of annual recognition awards for outstanding employer and educator members and a restricted fund for scholarships was put in place. Throughout the 1980’s, broad-based member participation in project and committee work became the most outstanding feature of the state group.
Significant revisions of the OCEA Constitution and By-laws in 1981, 1984, 1987, 1991, 1996, 1999 and, most recently in 2000, have paved the way for a more effective operational structure for the Association. Among changes in the structure, a Two-Year College Committee was formed – initially as an ad-hoc committee and later becoming a standing committee – to address the needs of our two-year college members. Additionally, a Technology Committee (ad-hoc) was created to assist the Association in keeping current with technology related items.
Throughout the 1990’s, the Association saw continued support from employers and growth in membership, as well as, strong volunteerism by members. With a healthy financial base, the Association was able to increase the size of the scholarship awarded at the high school and college levels. OCEA gained a presence on the Internet. Our website, initially housed at Case Western Reserve University, has changed and expanded services over the years to meet the needs of the membership.
A celebration that marked the Association’s 25th year anniversary of the first state level meeting took place at the 1996 Annual Conference held at the Maumee Bay Resort in Maumee, Ohio. Also in 1996, the Executive Board created an award to recognize organizations and their strong support for cooperative education called the “Award for Excellence.” The award was presented for the first time to the University of Cincinnati. In 1997, the Research Committee initiated a grant for Association members. Up to $500 is awarded annually to assist an OCEA member in their cooperative education research. By the end of the 1990’s, the Association realized and appreciated the impact of the personal and professional support of its members. Through strong conference programs and proceeds, member volunteerism, monetary contributions and record growth in membership, OCEA was able to award scholarships from our operating funds for the first time in its history.
As OCEA moved into the new millennium, its strong foundation allowed the organization to continue moving forward. The constitution was revised in 2005 to institutionalize many of the changes that had taken place through the organization’s evolution. In 2006 the Cooperative Education and Internship Association invited OCEA to hold a joint conference in Cincinnati Ohio in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of cooperative education by Dean Herman Schneider of the University of Cincinnati. OCEA joined with co-op professionals from around the world as a conference of over 450 attendees came to downtown Cincinnati as well as the campus of the University of Cincinnati for this exciting celebration.
Today, OCEA continues to be involved in legislative affairs important to the co-op community, publishes a comprehensive and informative membership directory, provides research for the benefit of educator and employer members, provides scholarships to high school and college students, maintains an up-to-date website, provides members with an informative newsletter, provides workshops for professional and personal growth and annually schedules a conference providing a balanced mix of learning and social activities that appeal to the full range of member interests. There is no question that OCEA is an outstanding model for a state association in cooperative education. The reason is obvious – a dedicated and involved membership!