When Defiance College professor and historian Randy Buchman decided to retire in 2002, he was asked by Fred Schultz, then mayor of Defiance, what he planned to do with all of his time. Buchman, known for decades as an expert in the history of Ohio, said he would probably enjoy life and do research about local history, because there are great stories to be told around Defiance.
The next thing Buchman knew, he was the official city historian for Defiance, because for him, part of the enjoyment of life is surrounding himself with history of the city, region and nation, and those individuals who have distinguished themselves as history-makers.
Few communities have the benefits of a city historian, someone like Buchman who sees the role as an opportunity to lift up the consciousness of local history and then to celebrate that history and recognize people and events that played a significant role in Defiance, Defiance s role in Northwest Ohio, and Defiance s role in the last of Ohio s frontier.
Buchman instituted a city hall of fame, creating a council to select people nominated at-large by the community. He created a recognition process for businesses with a long heritage in the community. He has collaborated with the Defiance Community Cultural Council, led by Dr. Richard Stroede, another recently retired Defiance College administrator.
Buchman, who began teaching at Defiance in 1964, decided that there needed to be a joint effort between the city and Defiance College to not only recognize the heritage of the area but also the co-existence of the city and the college for the past 150-plus years. In talks with college administrators and faculty member Dr. Don Buerk, the Town and Gown Series emerged, focusing on significant events in the history of both institutions, because, Buchman said, You can t separate the college from the community.
Town and Gown themes have included reminiscences of local World War II veterans; U.S. presidents and first ladies from Ohio; U.S. Presidents who visited Defiance; local architecture; and Booze, Bands, and Vice of the Depression. The events have showcased local speakers, renowned national scholars, and presidential descendants such as Seth Taft, Tweed Roosevelt, and David and Julie Eisenhower.
The current Town and Gown series features Abraham Lincoln, in celebration of the president s 200th birthday. Buchman spent two years planning the series, contacting Lincoln scholars and making arrangements for exhibits. The year-long series debuted in January with Dr. Gerald Bazer of Owens Community College.
Buchman is excited about the opportunities the current series provides. Abraham Lincoln asked us to dedicate ourselves to the unfinished work of our nation at Gettysburg, he said. We as a people need to reflect on that life and words of Lincoln, that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom.
In addition to Bazer, presentations have already been given by Buchman, Dr. Jan Younger of Heidelberg University, and Dr. William Harris, nationally recognized Lincoln scholar.
Lectures resume Sept. 10 with Dr. Michelle Tabit of Defiance College discussing the life of Mary Todd Lincoln. Dr. Mark Neely Jr., professor of history at Penn State and a Pulitzer Prize winner, will speak Oct. 11. He will discuss his book, The Last Best Hope of Earth. Dr. Gerald Wood, former Defiance president, will discuss Lincoln and education on Oct. 29. The final segment will feature Dr. Buerk, associate professor of history, on Nov. 12. His topic, Counter Movements, will examine Lincoln and the peace movement.
All Town and Gown events are free and open to the public. Remaining lectures in the Lincoln series will be in Schomburg Auditorium beginning at 7:30 p.m.