How AU and Ashland community have been blessed by the Archers

Robert and Janet Archer have influenced the lives of many


Tom Puskar

The Ashland University Library was named in honor of Robert and Janet Archer in May 2021 for their contributions to Ashland University.

Brynn Meisse, Features Editor

How Ashland University and Ashland community have been blessed by the Archers Robert and Janet Archer believe that the fates of Ashland University and their adopted hometown of Ashland are intricately linked together: To help one helps the other.

Ashland University and the Ashland community have benefited tremendously over the years due to Bob and Jan’s generosity.

According to AU President Dr. Carlos Campo, over the past 10 years, the Archers have donated an estimated $20 million to a wide variety of Ashland University projects, with their names adorning several assets from the AU library and the new AU softball field.

Their local impact extends far beyond the AU campus and across the Ashland community with major contributions including the Ashland High School Auditorium, the recently expanded Ashland YMCA, a new community childcare facility in the Ashland Business Park, the Associated Charities headquarters and many other community projects.

The AU connection
In 1975, after moving into their new home in Ashland, the Archers attended the Madrigal Feaste, the long-running medieval period dinner-theater performance produced by AU students. It was their introduction to Ashland University.

“We went to [the Madrigal Feaste] and absolutely loved it. We have gone every year since,” Jan said.

Over the years, the Archers’ connection to the university grew through the sports teams, music events, students, and faculty.

“The community and the college have offered us so much with our interests,” Jan said. “Ashland University has been here since 1878 and we’ve got to make sure it stays another hundred years,” said Bob.

The Archers moved to Ashland when Bob was offered a job at Eagle Rubber. Eventually, Bob and five others bought Kent Watersports, which manufactures skis, wakeboards, personal flotation devices, and other water-related gear (Kent Outdoors).

The AU library was named after Bob and Jan Archer in May 2021 in recognition of their
philanthropy. The couple had recently donated over $10 million to the university, which was the largest one-time donation in the university’s history.

The Archers made challenge grants to offer improvements at the AU baseball complex and the construction of the new softball stadium. The softball and baseball stadiums are part of the Archer Ballpark Complex. (AU Athletics)

Challenges encourage others

Many of the Archer donations have been challenge gifts, pledging to give a certain amount of money if the community raises its agreed-upon amount.

The Archers love to do challenge gifts because it “encourages others” to donate and “get others involved.”

One challenge gift the Archers did was “the Archer Challenge Grant”. The Archers would match dollar for dollar every donation made to AU up to a total of $1 million. This challenge was made to raise enough money to keep AU’s physical campus in its best shape, such as sidewalks, exterior lighting, and landscaping.

Another Archer challenge gift was for the new AU softball field. The women’s softball team has been playing at Brookside Park for 39 years, but thanks to the Archer’s donation, the team got a brand-new field on campus that will open in the spring.

Jim Hess, chair of the AU Board of Trustees, recognizes the importance of the Archers and their donations.

“Their significant gifts have supported our budget, allowed us to invest in program enhancements, increase the scholarships we can provide incoming students, and enhance many of our facilities,” Hess said. “I can’t imagine where we would be without their amazing generosity.”

The Archers’ generosity to this program has not gone unnoticed by Jeff Sikkenga, executive director of the Ashbrook Scholar program ( Home – Ashbrook Scholar Program).

“Ashbrook would probably not be in our new home in the Schar College of Education building without the support and friendship of the Archers,” Sikkenga said.

“I love the program. I think they are doing a great job teaching the Constitution and getting people to think about what the republic is,” Bob said.Al

Dr. Carlos Campo and Robert Archer, the CEO of Kent Watersports, which manufactures water skies, wakeboards, personal flotation devices, and other water-related sports gear, meet in Bob’s office. (Allison Waltz-Boebel)

Helping others attend college
In the eyes of the Archers, they believe that scholarships are their most important contributions.

“College is expensive and by providing a lot of scholarships we are helping young people to go to college. We want people to go to AU,” Bob said.

In 2021, the Archers helped with the tuition relief scholarship, this scholarship allowed first-year, full-time students living on campus with a 2.0 GPA to receive aid. The scholarship would only cover any remaining tuition costs in the spring 2022 semester.

The Archers also give high school students like Ashland High School scholarships. They give four to six athletic and music-based scholarships a year.

“Their scholarships impact the campus in [several] ways,” Dr. Campo said.

“[They] provide hundreds of students with reduced tuition costs. In addition, these scholarships bring in many students to the university, who could otherwise not afford to come,” he said. “Finally, their scholarships, because they touch all students from athletes to honors students Ashbrook students, and seminary students, are so wide-ranging, they help us to bring in a diverse group of students to our campus.”

The Archers’ impact has gone beyond their financial support of the university and into the Ashland community.

Jan received the Spirit of the Chamber award in xxx for her many contributions to the community. She was the first woman director of United way in Ashland County and headed the chamber’s leadership Ashland program. Courtesy of the Times-Gazette photo archive. (Times Gazette Archive)

Helping as a ‘communitarian’
Jan often refers to herself as a “communitarian” someone who helps the community in whatever way possible.

Jan worked at Samaritan Hospital in the 1980s as a health planner and then as the director of development, which eventually led her way to work for United Way of Ashland County (Home – United Way of Ashland County (

Jan was the first woman director at United Way from 1985 until 1994. She said her position at United Way “opened her eyes to the whole community.”

“It was a wonderful way to get to know what makes the community run,” Jan said. “People inspire me and [getting involved] lifts my spirits.”

She helped to found Ashland Center for Nonviolence (Ashland Center for Nonviolence | Ashland University) and become a member of the University Trustees Auxiliary. Jan headed up the Leadership Ashland program as well.

Jan’s passion for music led her to volunteer with the Ashland Symphony Orchestra, where she recently headed the search committee to find a new conductor and music director.

“Bob and Jan are people that live their life to be a blessing to others,” Hess said. “[They] care most about how much they could give of themselves to benefit others, and most of all, how they might bless this great university and Ashland community.”

The Archers, both valedictorians at their respective high schools, were chosen to be the keynote speakers at Spring Commencement 2022. (Allison Waltz-Boebel)

A passion for the arts
When offered the chance to help with a project that involved music and the community, the Archers couldn’t pass it up.

Of all the projects the Archers have contributed to, the one they are most proud of is the
Ashland High School Auditorium, which was named in their honor. Their lead gift allowed enhancements to make it a state-of-the-art facility.

The auditorium combines two passions the Archers find important: education and music. “It’s a jewel, a treasure, that we were proud to help offer,” Jan said.

The auditorium consists of just over 1,000 seats, dressing rooms, a sound shell, and a control room. This new addition to the high school has allowed Ashland to grow its fine arts program. Doug Marrah recently retired superintendent of Ashland City Schools, said the auditorium has benefitted the district because it “grants the ability to share the arts with more people.”

“Kids have a better experience with fine arts and more access [to educational opportunities],” Marrah said.

As the Archers continue to make an impact on each individual they meet along the way, their legacies will be remembered by future generations, said Ashland Mayor Matt Miller.

“The neat thing about living in Ashland in this time is [that] we are living among giants, men, and women who make a dramatic impact on our community and quality of life. If you look to the past, the Myers, Clarks, and Millers all left a powerful legacy in Ashland,” Miller said. “The truth is the Archers are living giants in our time.”

— Ashland Mayor Matt Miller