An endowment was established in 1995 in what was then the Department of Agricultural Economics (now Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics) to support the C. William Swank Chair in Rural-Urban Policy. The Chair was named in honor of Dr. William Swank, retired Executive Vice President of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. For over 50 years, Bill provided outstanding leadership and vision in addressing both rural and urban issues, recognizing the need for objective analysis to promote the understanding and resolution of critical policy issues. As evidence of his vision, Bill recognized a need for more attention to rural-urban conflict and better rural-urban policy long before it became widely popular in the latter 1990s.
The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences provides an ideal location for in-depth attention to these issues. The Ohio State University is home to scores of researchers with national and international reputations on issues related to rural-urban interdependence. Ohio is an excellent laboratory in which to examine these issues as it has numerous urban centers scattered across the state with rural communities filling in between. The growth and vitality of the state’s economy, including agriculture, are dependent on the successful solution of rural-urban issues.
The Swank Program was launched in summer 1997 with the hiring of Dr. Lawrence W. Libby, first holder of the C. William Swank Chair in Rural-Urban Policy. The activities of the Swank Program have improved rural-urban cooperation. Activities have included organizing and conducting national conferences and symposia, undertaking and sponsoring analysis of policy options, striving to improve communication among interests at the rural-urban interface, bringing timely information to policymakers and citizens, and establishing a national center of excellence on rural-urban policy research and education. These activities have also facilitated the education of undergraduate and graduate students at The Ohio State University.
Dr. Mark Partridge was hired in the Summer of 2006 to be the second holder of the C. William Swank Chair in Rural-Urban Policy. Building on the success of Dr. Libby, Mark will continue to build a national and internationally recognized program in research, teaching, and outreach. While maintaining a focus on the rural-urban interface, Mark will explore broad issues of rural-urban interdependence including those related to economic development, rural-urban quality of life, transportation, agriculture, green space, and the environment.