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O’dell Owens ’71

Interviewed By: 
Christian Feuerstein '94

Dr. O'dell Owens '71 is a man with a very impressive résumé: M.D. and M.P.H. degrees from Yale, and former Harvard University professor, just for starters. He also established the first division of reproductive endocrinology in the department of OB/GYN at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. While there, he established an in vitro fertilization program and announced Cincinnati's first pregnancy from a frozen embryo. He was twice elected as the Hamilton County coroner, and is now the president of Cincinnati State. So it is somewhat jarring, but totally entertaining, to be on the phone with Dr. Owens' former alter-ego, DJ Double-O Soul, formerly of WYSO.

Wow! [Stephen] Duffy said you were the best DJ on campus. My radio show became the hit of the evening. The show was from midnight to 1:30 a.m., and some of my friends would come up and dance. You had to get there early, otherwise there was no room. It was called the Antioch Soul Sounds. Since the radio was AM, and only on campus, we'd call it the A.S.S. parties. It became a happening. That's part of the past, past life. In those days, you had to earn your audience.

Any other musical prowess we should know about? Are you familiar with the Antioch Adventure? I was one of the Temptations. We did that in the Library. It just happened. All of my friends had been in the Supremes; I had to do something different.

What brought you to Antioch College? What was your major? It was [through] the Rockefeller Program—they were offereing scholarships to inner city African Americans and Hispanics from targeted areas, and Cincinnati was one. At the time, it had to be about scholarships [for me]. It was either Antioch or Denison. I majored in biology.

Were there any co-ops that made an impression on you? My first co-op. Growing up in inner city Cincinnati, and then going to NYC, sharing a studio apartment with two other Antioch College students—amazing. Really fending for yourself. Working on Fifth Avenue. It was with the Martin E. Segal Company, working on an actuarial calendar. I made $65 a week.

What are some of your favorite memories of Antioch College? I spent my third year in Uganda. A most remarkable year. Uganda had then only been independent for about five years. It was a year I learned a lot about myself. On campus, everybody always felt very comforted by going to Yellow Springs. I always loved spring and summer at Antioch.

But there were some issues for you. There used to be a weekly meeting of the students on the Rockefeller program. They were taped, but we were told that the discussions were private. The meetings could be really heated. And then at the end, the tapes were used for a documentary. We bared our souls! A lot of us left Antioch College not feeling very warm and fuzzy.

Do you have any advice for the current students, the 35 Horace Mann Fellows? The philosophy when I was there was "you need to exploit ALL your educational opportunities." Yale was very structured; we had combination programs. I jumped on that because Antioch College taught me to jump on it, really take advantage. Whatever they offer, take it. When I applied to Yale, I stood out because I had one year of study in Uganda. Study abroad.

How else has Antioch College influenced you?  I left a lucrative private practice (I was Sally Jesse Raphael's favorite doctor to have on the show) to be a coroner, to be a college president. I'm an agent of social change. That was galvanized at Antioch College. At Cincinnati State I can help a lot of people who need to change their lives.