In 1955, OSU Extension organized a Rural Development Committee to establish a Rural Development Extension Program. The goal: to more effectively address needs of 25 economically depressed counties in southeast Ohio. The effort was funded by USDA and by 1957, pilot projects were established in Monroe and Guernsey Counties. In these two counties, the County Extension Agricultural Agent worked with the County Rural Development committee to facilitate the development of a comprehensive economic development strategy over a two-year period.
To see real-life application of “The Adoption Process,” OSU Rural Sociology Professor Dr. Everett Rogers took his class to Monroe County to learn from Howard Phillips, the Rural Development Agent based there. As a member of this class, I was so impressed that I told Dr. Rogers I’d like to pursue a Master’s Degree in Rural Sociology specializing in Community Development. I was so excited that I told him I wanted him to be my advisor. Rogers replied that he would be glad to be my advisor if I would agree to be the “guinea pig” to help him develop a curriculum in Community Development since none yet existed in the Rural Sociology program. Of course, I eagerly agreed!
The pilot projects in Guernsey and Monroe Counties demonstrated the effectiveness of this CD approach. Consequently, in 1960, twenty-five economically depressed southeastern Ohio counties were grouped into four areas, each of which were served by an Area Extension Rural Development Agent. Each agent was tasked with assisting community leaders in the same manner as in the pilot projects. These first Area Extension Rural Development Agents included Howard Phillips, William Shaw, Ralph Moore and Norman Burkett. Their comprehensive economic development strategies were completed by the summer of 1962. When Norman Burkett left Extension, I eagerly filled his position upon obtaining my degree at the August commencement – the first OSU Rural Sociology MS degree with a CD specialization.
State program leadership was provided by OSU Rural Sociology Professor Dr. Everett Rogers; the first State Leader, Community Development, from 1962 to 1964. Interestingly, in 1963, one of the first two CD agents (Howard Phillips) became the first Assistant Director for Community Development. A post he held into 1966.
There was much CD work to be done and these early Area Extension Agents were very much engaged. For example, Ralph Moore worked with a group of community leaders to develop proposed strip-mine regulations including eliminating high walls (20 to 100 feet). William Shaw organized an Absentee Landowners Education Program and conducted it in the area of the absentee landowners’ primary residence (i.e. Cleveland-Akron-Canton); an annual offering that went on for years. Howard Phillips organized a southeastern Ohio Vacation Farms Association; an ideal tourism program. And I worked to extend water lines to service over 2000 families in sections of Highland, Adams and Brown Counties. That membership sign-up campaign resulted in over 200 miles of water lines!
The early success of this Area Extension approach very much impressed then-Director, Roy Kottman!
Raymond Schindler is an Associate Professor Emeritus and an OSU alum.