Because he found love, laughter and wisdom at ONU in the 70s, this donor gives back today


Ohio Northern University made a positive impact—academically, socially and spiritually–on Larry Winkleman, BSCE ’78 and his late wife, Jan (Nolan) Winkleman, BA ’79. Larry has never stopped being grateful for ONU’s influence on their lives and that’s why he is supporting the Forward Together campaign today.

Larry retired in 2021 as president of Hinkle Contracting Company, LLC in Paris, Ky., after 44 years in the heavy highway construction and construction materials industry. Jan, who passed away in 2018, taught preschool.

According to Larry, he and Jan learned valuable lessons at ONU about leadership, faith, giving back, and learning from your mistakes. And topping all that, they met and fell in love at ONU.

They’ve been devoted supporters of ONU ever since. They established the Jan Nolan Winkleman Endowed Scholarship Fund in the Dicke College of Business Administration and they’ve also contributed to the Dr. Don E. Milks Endowed Scholarship Fund in the College of Engineering. 

Larry has a great sense of humor, and he recently shared with ONU his account of his student days at the University in the 1970s. It is well worth the read for the laughter and lessons gleaned:

I came to ONU in the summer of 1974 for freshman orientation weekend with a sense of fun and excitement. In my registration packet was a notice that all freshmen engineers were to meet early Saturday morning in the Biggs Engineering Building for a math test. Excitement turned to panic.

Later that day a sheet was posted of engineering students who were to attend a meeting following dinner on Saturday. I sensed it was not an awards ceremony for the top test scores. We were informed that we had failed the math placement test and we had several options:

Option #1: Bail out while you are still ahead and change your major to something other than engineering or math. 

Option #2: Begin your freshman year with entry level math, retake the placement test spring quarter and if you pass you can then begin in the College of Engineering. Translation: no guarantees and at least a 5-year program.

Option #3: Return two weeks prior to the start of fall quarter and enter the math refresher program. At the end of the two-week class, you retake the test and if you pass you are in the College of Engineering. If you fail, revisit options 1 & 2. 

Option #4: Return home and pump gas at the local Shell station.

After discussing my failure with my parents, we selected Option #3. 

ONU math refresher was the math equivalent of Army Basic Training. We had class Monday through Saturday for two weeks. Classes went from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., break for lunch, then 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. We took a break for dinner and then returned for study sessions with faculty from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. On the last Friday morning we took the test as students were arriving and moving in for fall quarter. On Saturday we got our results. By the grace of God, I passed. 

What I learned in the two weeks prior to fall quarter my freshman year:

First, the commitment required to graduate from college. Second, for the first time in my life I now knew what it meant to seriously study. Third, the level of commitment of the Ohio Northern engineering faculty to its students. We were not just numbers, but real people that the faculty invested in and cared about. 

Later that fall, as a tall unrecruited freshman, I tried out for the basketball team. 1974 marked the end of an era at Taft Gym and the opening of King Horn Sports Center. The transition from high school to college sports is a quantum leap both physically and mentally. I enjoyed success as a freshman as I started on the JV squad. That’s the good news. The bad news for my future was that Brad Longberry and Doug Mock, also freshmen, started on the varsity. 

Out of the five JV starters my freshman year, my close friend Jim Wilson got cancer and entered a fight for life away from ONU, two others frustrated by the prospects of playing time quit, and two of us remained on the team through our senior year. Jim Wilson and the two that left the team were all better than me. I just refused to quit. 

I loved being a part of ONU basketball. I loved the game, the practices, and being part of the team. To this day, two of my teammates, Doug Mock and Tom Bramlage, remain my closest friends. No one cared more and played less than me. I had to accept my role which was to prepare the starters for game day during practice. They were better, but I did not back down from the challenge. I had two broken noses and several good fights to show for it. Coach Campoli often said “Wink, you play every day of the week except Wednesday and Saturday.” I believe I still hold the record for least minutes played in a four-year career.

What I learned from four years of ONU basketball:

First, toughness. Coach Daugherty stressed a hardnose defensive style of basketball. I arrived as a somewhat timid player and emerged with a toughness and resolve that helped me through life’s challenges.

Second, life is full of wins and losses. Give it all you must but accept the results and move on. Be willing to review your performance, learn from mistakes and prepare for the next game. Lessons learned on the basketball court are applicable to life.

Third, on a team, not all roles are attractive, but all are important. A bench warmer, student manager, statistician and volunteer assistant coach all have vital roles in a team’s success. Accept your role and do it to the best of your ability.

Finally, broken noses are extremely painful.

In the fall of my junior year, I returned to the dorm to find a note on my door telling me to be at the Dean of Men’s office at 2 p.m. When I arrived, I was greeted by Dean of Men Keith Miller, Director of McIntosh Center Bill Robinson, and Vice President of Students Chet Burns. To no surprise, Robby took charge of the meeting which went something like this: 

Robby: “Wink, have you ever considered getting involved in Student Senate?”

Wink: “No, I really haven’t.”

Robby: “Wink, we think you could really represent the student body well and think you should consider it.”

Wink: “OK, but I don’t know that it really interests me.”

Robby: “Elections are coming up and we think you would make a good President of Student Senate.”

Wink (after a good laugh): “You are kidding me, right?”

Robby (frustrated that the conversation is going nowhere): “Wink, we are not asking you to run for Student Senate President, we are telling you that you will run for President.”

Wink (after a long pause): “I sense you are not asking me to think about it.”

Robby: “Thanks Wink, we are here to help you.”


What I learned as Student Senate President:

First, Matthew 22:14 reads “For many are called, but few are chosen.” I was neither called nor chosen, I was strong armed. Second, pushing myself out of my comfort zone leads to growth. 

Third, serving others is at the heart of leadership.

During my four years at ONU, the campus chaplain was Dr. Thomas Hoffman. He was down to earth, easy to talk with and had a great laugh. Several times a year he invited students to his home for homemade ice cream. He had an open door and I often stopped by to see him. He would always say “Wink, come on in and take your clothes off.” An odd expression, but it was his way of saying leave your mask and pretenses at the door. After some opening chit chat and a few jokes, he would ask me what was on my mind. He was a great listener and always had some penetrating questions to follow. I always came away unburdened and renewed to face my challenge. I treasured my time with Doc. 

Lessons learned from Dr Hoffman:

First, you are created in the image of God, and He loves you. Second, be Wink. Accept and appreciate who you are, you are one of a kind. Third, He has given you unique gifts and you will find meaning and fulfillment in using them to God’s glory. 

Each of these stories are about people: faculty, coaches, administrators, teammates and friends. They invested themselves in me through failures, successes, disappointments and achievements. They knew how to push, pull, discipline, encourage, laugh, cry, and pray for me through Ohio Northern. They saw something in me I could not see in myself. I could only see my limitations; they had the foresight to look beyond the present and see what I could become in the years ahead.

My degree is in civil engineering. But the college experience is far more than academics. It is a time of life where friends are made, character is shaped and life lessons are learned. I’m grateful I attended classes with professors and other students I could see and interact with. I would not be who I am today if my experience was through virtual learning.

However, no one impacted my life more than a girl I met on a blind date in the fall of my junior year. I took Jan to a Sig Ep party primarily because I had no money and we both had a lot of friends there. The evening ended with a kiss in the back entrance stairwell of Brookhart Hall. She was pretty. 

During winter quarter, Jan took a bowling class at McIntosh Center taught by none other than Coach Campoli. When Coach figured out that I was dating Jan, he started calling her “Mrs. Wink.” I told coach at practice that we had just started dating and he was really making it hard on me. Coach said “Wink, you aren’t that good looking, so you better hang on to her. She’s a looker!” That was the best coaching advice I ever received from Campy. 

In 1980, Jan and I were married and shared the next 37 years of life together. Jan was my best friend and wife. We are blessed with three children and seven grandchildren. Our best friends are ONU graduates. We have gathered every summer for the last 44 years. We have many fond memories of ONU and the impact it had on our life. Jan went home to heaven in March 2018.

Jan’s father wanted her to live at home and attend the University of Akron. Her Mom made a strong push to allow her to go away to school. They visited many small schools in Ohio, but her dad only liked ONU because he felt she would be safe in Ada. So, Ohio Northern was Jan’s choice over staying home in Akron. Her dad wanted her to be a lawyer, so she majored in political science and hated it. She knew her dad would accept a change to business and so she graduated with a degree in business.

She worked in the insurance industry until we started our family. Her real love was teaching children. She fulfilled her calling by teaching 3 and 4-year-old children at Grace United Methodist preschool for 15 years. I was known around town by students and parents as “Mrs. Winkleman’s husband”.

Our support of ONU is about Jan. Together, we have established the Jan Nolan Winkleman Endowed Scholarship Fund in the Dicke College of Business. We want students to experience ONU in its fullest: academically, socially, spiritually.

We also want to support engineering students. No one impacted me more than my advisor, mentor and friend Dr. Don Milks. We have made a gift in his honor to the Dr. Don E. Milks Endowed Scholarship Fund.

Jan would not like the attention of a scholarship in her name. She always preferred working in the background. She would be pleased that together we are giving back to Ohio Northern. We received far more from Ohio Northern than we can return. We will continue to support these scholarships and the students of Ohio Northern.


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