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When Duane Nellis was a student at Montana State University, he could be found at concerts, seeing bands like the Doobie Brothers and the Beach Boys. He majored in earth science and geography, and he loved to ski.
Having grown up in a small town in northwest Montana, Nellis said going to college was an especially exciting. Being on campus opened up Nellis’ world, introducing him to people and perspectives he had never heard before.
“Going to college, it was just an amazing experience,” Nellis said. “It was like a whole new visioning for me as far as the world and the connections in the world and the opportunities that were presented through the university experience.”
“It was just fun to socialize with people from all over the place.” Duane Nellis, 21st president of OU
Nellis also met his wife, Ruthie, in college. They had mutual friends, started to get to know each other and ended up in a class together.
“We happened to be in the same anthropology class together at the end of freshman year,” he said. “So we started sitting next to each other and started getting to know each other, and it was great.”
Nellis said Ruthie became his best friend. She is from Pennsylvania and “had gone west to Montana.”
“(College is) where I met my wife, and so that’s my favorite memory,” Nellis said. “It was really special to get to know her.”
The couple loved going to concerts together, and they would go on skiing trips nearby.
“Being in Bozeman there was skiing very close by — downhill skiing, snow skiing,” he said. “Ruthie and I actually did (go) snow skiing very regularly, so that was a lot of fun as well.”
Nellis loved spending time with his friends and taking part in college traditions.
“We used to just be with friends going out and having pizza,” he said. “It was just fun to socialize with people from all over the place.”
Aside from Ruthie, Nellis thinks all of his closest friends would say he was fun to be around, while remaining serious about academics. In high school, he would get good grades without having to try very hard. In college, however, he had to teach himself how to successfully learn and study.
“That was exciting for me because I was challenged in new ways,” Nellis said. “Coming from a small town and going to college, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be more high school or just advanced high school. Once I figured that out as a freshman, it really clicked.”
Nellis said getting involved on campus in all different aspects of college life helped him find his place during that time.
Meagan Hall | FILE
After receiving his official Bobcat ID, Duane Nellis laughs as he realizes he has his own PID number. Nellis's first official day was Monday, June 12, 2017.
“When you’re a student, you come in and you don’t realize all the speakers (and) all the different student organizations,” he said. “There’s just so many things to do, and you don’t always take full advantage of that, but I wished I would’ve known more about that up front.”
Much like students today, Nellis was on campus during a politically charged time. While he was an undergraduate student, the Vietnam War was in full swing and Watergate was on everyone’s minds. He said those events created a lot of tension on campus, and students were active across the country.
“It was a time of a lot of unrest and uncertainty with Vietnam, and it was also a time when Watergate was going on,” he said. “It was occurring at that time where they were drafting people to go into the military. Those things all had an impact for sure as I started my college experience.”
Despite any challenges Nellis may have faced during his college years, he is happy to have taken on a career in higher education.
“I’m humbled and honored to be at Ohio University for sure,” he said. “It’s been really fun.”