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OUS Rotunda named in honor of first director, James Mains

A man nicknamed "Bear" for being a tough football coach now has his real name on the Ohio University Southern Campus rotunda.

Yesterday afternoon, a rotunda in the university's Riffe Center was dedicated as the James J. Mains Jr. Rotunda.

Mains was the first director of the university, serving from 1956-1959. After he left the director's position, he taught at the university for more than 20 years.

"Heavens yes, I feel great," Mains said when asked if he was pleased with the honor. "This makes everything I've done worthwhile."

"Jim's a tremendous person," said Bill Dingus, retired dean of OUS. "He lit the torch for Ohio University in Lawrence County. He kindled that fire with integrity, and it was a privilege following in his footsteps."

During the ceremony, Mains recalled recruiting students at several clubs and high schools and the difficulty he had with the recruiting because Lawrence County was a thriving industrial community.

Nevertheless, 90 students signed up to take classes from Ohio University at Ironton High School.

Dan Evans, one of the speakers at the event, recalled his days as an OU student taking classes both in Ironton and at the Portsmouth branch location.

"It would have been difficult for me to go to college away from home because we had five kids in our family. I had to work to get through school. This literally gave me access to an education. Today, there are young people with a dream, but they don't fulfill it because they're having to make ends meet. Now, young people with dreams have opportunities."

Dr. Evans is now the dean of the campus, which has an enrollment of approximately 2,000 students.

Richard Meyers, a member of the Ohio University Coordinating Council and Bicentennial Committee, dubbed the rotunda the "roartunda" because of the fear Mains struck in some of his football players.

"He was one of my professors," said Ironton Mayor Bob Cleary. "It was interesting and enjoyable, and he kept you on your toes."

"This was a terrific ceremony," he added. "Mr. Mains has done so much for this community. Local people don't get the recognition that they deserve. Mr. Mains has certainly earned this."

A plaque on the wall was unveiled as well as a lamp that was given to Mains. The inscriptions on the lamp and the plaque were both given in honor of his "lifetime achievements as an educator and a coach."

"To us in education, the flame on a candle signifies knowledge," said Evans. "A lamp is a modern version of that. At Ohio University, the gift of knowledge is allowed." Amelia Pridemore/The Ironton Tribune