back to news Sept. 24, 2018

Sharpe Geography Innovation Commons opens in Derby Hall

Where does innovation occur?

Gary Sharpe (BA, geography, 1970) will tell you just about anywhere. After all, his multimillion-dollar enterprise Health Care Logistics got its start in a spare bedroom in 1978.

But Gary and his wife, Connie Sharpe (BS, nursing, 1969), wanted to foster a space at Ohio State where new ideas could not only blossom, but thrive — where students could engage with new technology and cross-disciplinary partnerships could form.

So in 2016, the Sharpes made a generous gift to the Department of Geography, marking the beginning of the department’s journey to bring hands-on learning and critical thinking to students through the Gary and Connie Sharpe Geography Innovation Commons, which opened Sept. 20 in Derby Hall.

The multipurpose room includes state-of-the-art technology for broadcast recording, two 3D printers, breakout space for collaboration and integrated equipment to engage with colleagues across universities.

Dedication and ribbon cutting of the Gary & Connie Sharpe Innovation Commons held Thursday, September 20, 2018 at Derby Hall on The Ohio State University Campus in Columbus, Ohio.(© James D. DeCamp of Rob McCormick photography)
Broadcasting room, Sharpe Innovation Commons
The Gary and Connie Sharpe Geography Innovation Commons. Images courtesy James DeCamp.

A quote from Gary Sharpe hangs in big, bold letters on one wall: “Every day, do something to make the world a better place.”  

“This space provides a center for students and faculty to engage in research,” said Morton O’Kelly, divisional dean of social and behavioral sciences and former chair of the Department of Geography, at an opening ceremony for the commons. “There’s a tremendous amount of useful technology in this room that is going to pay off in years to come.”

The ceremony also included a welcome from Darla Munroe, professor and chair of the Department of Geography, and presentations from geography doctoral student Forrest Schoessow and undergraduate student James White, who both received seed grants from the Sharpes for their research.

When asked what long-term impacts he’d like the new Innovation Commons to have, Gary Sharpe said: “Progress. Collaboration. It’s never an inventor or a scholar sitting on a mountaintop coming up with an idea. When you bring in various people with various skills — that’s when exciting things happen.”

Forget about the box — get out of the box; smash it. Think different. Keep going,” he added.

In 2010, the Gary L. Sharpe Scholarship for Outstanding Undergraduates was established with funds from the Gary L. Sharpe Scholarship Fund in Geography. The scholarship program provides support to undergraduate geography students who excel academically and/or professionally, with preference given to students from Ohio who demonstrate financial need.

Gary and Connie Sharpe
“What a great legacy,” Munroe said of the Sharpes’ collective impact. “I can’t imagine anything better that [Gary and Connie] could have done for our students and for us.”