Springfield, Ohio – The city of Hilliard, Ohio, is in good hands these days with three Wittenberg University graduates guiding the community of nearly 40,000 residents.
Libby Van Ommen Gierach, Wittenberg class of 1974, is the president and CEO of the Hilliard Area Chamber of Commerce, John Marschhausen, Wittenberg class of 1993, is the district superintendent for the Hilliard City School District, and Michelle Crandall, Wittenberg class of 1990, is Hilliard's first and current city manager.
Gierach, who earned her degree in elementary education, has been in her position for 20 years after serving as the assistant eight years prior to taking over.
“I happened upon this career when I was a chair of the Hilliard Schools Strategic Plan for 18 months,” said Gierach, originally from Pepper Pike, Ohio, in the Cleveland area. During her time at Wittenberg, she was a member of Delta Gamma, president of the Gamma Rho chapter, a member of the Panhellenic Council, a Syncopate, and participated in intramural sports.
“One of the people on the committee was looking for a person to take over the role of running the chamber during the leader’s maternity leave and asked if I would want to do that. I did and then started working at the chamber on a part-time basis for eight years. Concurrently during some of the time that I was working at the chamber, I was elected three times to the Hilliard Schools’ Board of Education and served in leadership roles there and at Tolles Career & Technical Center. It was a great synergy dealing with education and workforce development.”
She tried a teaching position after graduation and was even accepted to teach in New South Wales, Australia, but the program was delayed. Good thing because she met Rich Gierach, a 1972 graduate of Wittenberg, at a New Year’s Eve Party held by fellow Wittenberg graduates.
“The Hilliard Chamber provides opportunities for our members to connect with each other to build their referrals as well as being a voice for business when dealing with government laws and regulations,” she said of her current position. “We also provide programming for professional development and cost-saving benefits for businesses, such as reduced health-care premiums. My favorite part is to make strategic partnerships between businesses or consumers. I love delving into what a business or community member may need and finding solutions for them with partners in our area or region. I love being a connector and a convener.”
Marschhausen, who is in his seventh year as superintendent of Hilliard City Schools and 15th overall as a superintendent, was a history and political science major and education minor at Wittenberg. He earned his master’s degree from the University of Dayton and his Ph.D. from Capella University in Minnesota.
“Wittenberg prepared me to be a social studies teacher. The education, history, and political science departments were phenomenal,” said Marschhausen, originally from Connecticut. He was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, worked in the Admission Office, was a tour guide, was active in Student Government, and loved intramural sports during his years at Wittenberg. He currently resides in Hilliard, Ohio, with his wife Susan, a fourth-grade teacher in Dublin, and his two daughters, Jordan, a junior in the nursing program at The Ohio State University, and Emily, a senior at Hilliard Bradley High School.
“I taught and coached at the high-school level for six years, then moved into building-level administration before becoming a superintendent,” he continued. “I have served as a district superintendent at East Knox Local School, Loveland City Schools, and now for the Hilliard City School District.”
Marschhausen is also a faculty member at The Ohio State University in the College of Education and Human Ecology, where he serves as Superintendent in Residence. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine appointed him to serve in 2019 on the Governor's Executive Workforce Board, where he has the opportunity to work with business leaders and policymakers to better prepare Ohio's Workforce.
“I love my job. I am blessed to work with and lead, talented and dedicated educational professionals as we prepare today's students to be tomorrow's leaders. I live in a great community and partner with passionate civic leaders,” he added.
Crandall, who is originally from Doylestown, Ohio, majored in political science and minored in economics at Wittenberg and has an MPA from The Ohio State University. In her final three years at Wittenberg, she worked at the Springfield Bar Association and Law Library at the county courthouse. She was a member of Alpha Xi Delta, and a Beta Theta Pi little sis.
“I was hired on January 2 of this year as Hilliard's first city manager after the city recently changed the form of government,” she said. “Prior to that, I served as the assistant city manager in Dublin, a city just to the north of Hilliard. I had picked Wittenberg because I thought I wanted to be an attorney. Fortunately, I took (professor of political science at Wittenberg) Rob Baker's local government class, and he invited Matt Kridler, then-city manager of Springfield, to speak. A couple weeks later as part of a class assignment, I interviewed Matt. That was it; I had discovered the career I wanted to pursue. Matt ended up being a mentor to me for most of my career. I also hired his son Kyle years later, and Kyle recently became the assistant city manager for the City of Delaware, Ohio. I absolutely love being a local government professional and public servant. For me it's not just a job or a profession, but a calling.”
When Crandall was in the process of being hired by the City of Hilliard, Tom Baker, one of Hilliard's council members told her he had attended Wittenberg and mentioned that both Gierach and Marschhausen were also Wittenberg grads.
“I knew who John was when he was interviewing as that was part of his bio for being considered for the position of Hilliard Schools superintendent,” Gierach said. “When he was selected, I met him and mentioned our Wittenberg connection. We have had a great time talking about our times at Witt and the Fiji House. I had met Michelle several months before I knew that she was a fellow Tiger. The one thing that I love about these two other Witt grads is the friendliness and openness to meet and talk about life—personally and professionally. It’s always great to #TigerUp!”
“We are just starting out in our teamwork for Hilliard as Michelle just began in January, but I can already feel the camaraderie and focus that we will all put forth as we tackle issues and find solutions to what we can do to further the success of our Hilliard community—residents, school district, and business community. The thread that we all have is service to others,” she added.
Gierach reached out to Marschhausen the minute he was hired for the superintendent position in Hilliard.
“There is something special about the Tiger connection,” he said. “It doesn't matter when you graduated or what activities you participated in at Wittenberg; Tigers have a common bond. The ‘Wittenberg Experience’ prepares graduates to share that light with others. When Michelle was hired for the position in Hilliard, I immediately reached out just as Libby had done with me. The three of us will have many opportunities in the coming years to make a difference. Most importantly, Wittenberg prepared us to live life with purpose, to serve our community, and to lead with humble confidence.”
Crandall explained that the success of the Hilliard community in the years to come will be closely tied to how well the three of them vision and work together since the chamber, the school district, and the city are and will need to continue to be strong partners to lead the city in the right direction.