Tom O’Grady

Tom O’Grady

Tom O’Grady sailed as a deck worker on an ore carrier on the Great Lakes aboard a sister-ship of the fated Edmund Fitzgerald, surveyed for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, launched the first comprehensive curbside recycling program in the state of Ohio and has been promoting waste reduction and sustainable economy for thirty years. O’Grady has also been an instructor of Observational Astronomy in the evenings at Ohio University for thirty years. He has spent a good deal of the past twenty-five years as a student of Ohio history researching its geography and settlement, the moundbuilders, Ohio canals, and several of its interesting characters and their stories.

The Barnbuilders: An Architectural Legacy in Ohio’s Rural Landscape

“Culture groups migrating from New England, Middle Atlantic states and from the South settled in various regions of Ohio, and their distinct farms and barns can be observed when travelling throughout the state. The barnbuilders have left an architectural legacy throughout rural Ohio that can help one understand much about the heritage of the region. The geographic distribution of the various barn types is due to routes followed into the state, geographical influences, or cultural affinities. In any case, one can identify regions settled by people of Pennsylvania German descent, those settled by migrants from the upland south, or those migrating to Ohio from New England by the type of barns and other buildings on farmsteads remaining on Ohio byways. These artifacts of timber frame construction house the remnants of Ohio’s primeval forests.”

The Story of Ohio’s Canals: An Engineering Endeavor that can Still be Traced in Ohio’s Landscape

Beginning in 1825, Ohio began constructing its canal system that eventually included nearly a thousand miles of channel and towpaths laced with stone locks and culverts, aqueducts, feeder lakes and slackwater ponds. These canals opened up Ohio to world commerce allowing the export of surplus grains and manufactured goods and the import of items made in new York, London and Paris. Ohio’s canals linked the Great Lakes with the Ohio River and Ohio towns with markets in Chicago, Buffalo, and New York City and Pittsburg, St. Louis and New Orleans. Canal builders negotiated Ohio’s diverse landscape as they traversed glacial moraines and the Allegheny Plateau. The ‘big ditch’ stiched the settlements of Ohio’s wilderness together and helped make it a player on the world’s stage.

These Are My Jewels: The Architectural and Sculptural Legacy of Levi Tucker Scofield

A master-builder, Levi Scofield designed a number of the largest public buildings in Ohio in the 19thcentury. These included school buildings, asylums, orphan’s homes, penitentiaries, and federal buildings. He designed two major sculptural works, first viewed at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, which now occupy  a couple of the more precious pieces of real estate in Ohio, the Statehouse grounds in Columbus and the Public Square in Cleveland Ohio. Scofield designed homes for Euclid Avenue millionaires in Cleveland and was one of the few golfing partners with classmate John D. Rockefeller. Most of the legacy of this Ohioan has been demolished. Only a couple of these endangered treasures remain.

An Astronomical Expedition by Canal and Stagecoach: John Quincy Adams Crosses Ohio in 1843

Former president John Quincy Adams made his greatest excursion into the heartland of the nation he led nearly fifteen years after he left the Whitehouse. Calling for the establishment of an astronomical observatory in his first state of the union message back in 1825, Adams journeyed to Ohio in 1843 to fulfill this dream. Adams began serving the nation as a twelve year old interpreter for the American ambassador to Russia and died on the job in the U.S. Capitol more than 65 years later.

In his lifetime, amid the many causes for which he was the leading spokesman, John Quincy Adams was the foremost advocate for the advance of astronomy and the establishment of an astronomical observatory. At 76 years of age and serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, Adams was greeted along the route by throngs of Ohio abolitionists in response to his leading role in that cause. Old Man Eloquent made his way to the Queen City to lay the cornerstone of the first publicly financed astronomical observatory in North America.


To Schedule a presentation , Please contact:

Speaker Applications

If your organization would like to present a speaker, first directly contact the speaker to confirm program dates and times. After you have confirmed scheduling details, submit a speaker request form to the Ohio Humanities at least six weeks before the presentation takes place. Upon Ohio Humanities approval, we’ll a send you a packet with publicity materials and ask you to pay the appropriate application fee to the Ohio Humanities. Groups are limited to three Speakers Bureau programs per year.

Speakers Fee Structure

Non-profit organizations with an annual budget under $150,000 pay a fee of $50.00

Non-profit organizations with an annual budget over $150,000 pay a fee of $250.00

Schools (including colleges or universities) and corporate or private entities pay a fee of $400.00

***Funding for Speakers Bureau is currently committed and we are no longer accepting applications. If you are interested in booking a speaker directly, without Ohio Humanities funding, you are encouraged to contact the speaker directly with inquiries. The Bureau will reopen in September 2019. If you have any questions, please call Program Coordinator Sam Chase at 614.461.7802 or email at schase@ohiohumanities.org.***