Three-and-a-half decades; no regrets


Ralph Tomassi reads the book he wrote about Ashland football. Tomassi is retiring in October. 

By Glenn Battishill

Whenever the Ashland Eagles football team wins a game they ring the victory bell, alerting the town of their success. While most students think this tradition has been around forever the truth is that it is a relatively young tradition, and one started by Ralph Tomassi, the senior executive vice president for athletic development here at Ashland University.

When Ralph Tomassi came to Ashland College in 1973 to play baseball very few people would’ve believed he would still be on campus in 2012, after working on campus for nearly 35 years later.

When he returned to Ashland College in 1978 he became the first ever Director of Transfer Admissions and in 1984 he became the first ever Director of the Annual Fund.

In 1987 he became the Executive Director of Development until the early 90s when he was briefly the interim Vice President for Development until he became the Associate Vice President for Development, a position he held until 2012 when Fred Finks asked him to become the Senior Executive Vice President for Athletic Development.

“I have a passion for athletics,” Tomassi said. “Athletic development is a labor of love for me. I know it’s hokey but I would do this job for nothing if I could.”

Tomassi said the real reason for his 30 plus years of service isn’t the athletic department it’s the students.

“Everything we do is and should be toward making Ashland University a better place to live and learn,” Tomassi said.

With a simple walk around campus all of Tomassi’s work becomes visible.

Tomassi is responsible for the Varsity steps program, where-in former Ashland University athletic personnel, be they players or staff, can have a brick with their information placed on the walkway surrounding Abe the eagle in from of the Rec center.

“It’s not about the star players,” Tomassi said. “The varsity walk is for everyone.”

He is also responsible for the Gridiron club, the locker sponsorship program and several others.

Tomassi is an avid Ashland Eagles fan. You can tell from the bumper sticker on his car, the bold “GO EAGLES” on the back of his business card or from the title of the book he wrote, “Go Eagles!: the history of Ashland University football.”

Tomassi’s new position has given him high hopes for the future.

“I look forward to working will Bill Goldring and the athletic staff as I enter the winter of my professional career,” Tomassi said entering his 35th year at Ashland University.

As Tomassi’s career matures and Ashland student’s careers start he encourages students to be proud of their school. Tomassi said that when he sees Ashland students wearing shirts from other schools he suggests that they should be wearing Ashland apparel.

“It takes great personal commitment to have pride and loyalty to your school,” Tomassi said. “Take pride in who you are and where you came from.”

Even after 35 years Tomassi still knows why he stayed at Ashland University.

“I’ve never hated Sunday night,” Tomassi said. “I’ve been humbled to have served here all these years.”

Tomassi’s office was in Founders Hall for 34 years until his most recent promotion, when he moved to the Robert Troop Center.

“It’s 37 steps to get to my office in founders,” Tomassi said, estimating that he travelled up and down the steps at least four times a day for a majority of the year. He conservatively estimates that over the course of his career he has taken at least 1,683,500 steps. “Every single step taken with pride.”