The Ashbrook Center at Ashland University was established and named in honor of the late Congressman John M. Ashbrook, who represented Ohio’s 17th Congressional district for 21 years. President Ronald Reagan personally dedicated the Center on May 9, 1983.
At the start of the program in 1984, the Ashbrook Scholar Program started with just 14 students. In the coming years, The Ashbrook Scholar Program grew and received national attention. With the reputation as one of the finest undergraduate programs in the United States, Ashbrook now offers programs for high school students, teachers, master students, and citizens who want to learn more about The United States. The Ashbrook Center has continued to grow, as with its influence spreading, across the nation. However, the success of the program would not have come without the founders and directors of the Ashbrook Center. Fred Lennon, Thomas A. Van Meter, and F. Clifton White all founded the Ashbrook Center in memory of John M. Ashbrook. F. Clifton White served as the first Executive Director of the Ashbrook Center, followed by Charles Parton, and Dr. Peter Schramm and current Executive Director, Roger L. Beckett.
Thomas A. Van Meter
Founding Member and former Board Member of The Ashbrook Center
Mr. Thomas A. Van Meter was a protégé of John Ashbrook, learning and working beside Ashbrook to further the conservative movement. Van Meter served as an Administrative Assistant to Congressman Ashbrook, Administrative Faculty member of Ashland College, founding member of the Ashbrook Center in 1983 as well as a member of the Ashbrook Board of Advisors.
Thomas A. Van Meter’s served as the President of Van Meter, Ashbrook Associates, a consulting firm which was located in Columbus Ohio and Washington D.C. He served in the Ohio House of Representatives from 1984-1986 and the State Senate from 1972-1982. As a State Senator, he held leadership positions as President Pro Tem, Assistant Minority Leader, and Minority Whip. Van Meter’s career included his leadership and service as co-chairman of the Ohio Bush for President ’88, as well as the Bush/Qualye ‘88 Committee’s national steering committee. He lost his battle to cancer in 1992.
Founding Member and Chairman of the Ashbrook Center Board from 1983 to 1989
Mr. Fred Lennon, ninety-two years old at his passing, was known to the world as a very successful businessman, the founder and head of The Swagelok Company, which he had built from nothing into one of the most efficient and valued manufacturers of innovative high-pressure pipe fittings. He was a great philanthropist, and an early and committed supporter of Ronald Reagan and other conservative Republicans, as an enthusiastic supporter of private business interests.
He counted among his personal friends former President Ronald Reagan and former Ohio Governor George Voinovich (he helped both with their election campaigns). Though playing a public role, he preferred to stay a private man, generally preferring to stay out of the limelight whenever possible. He lived with his wife, Alice, and their two children in Hunting Valley, Ohio.
As a philanthropist, Lennon was active in, and contributed much to, a variety of charitable and nonprofit organizations in Ohio. He was a founder and chairman of The Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at Ashland University, and president of Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills. He created the Fred A. Lennon Foundation, which between its establishment in 1965 and its dissolution in 1995, donated millions to a variety of schools, nonprofit foundations and charities. Following his death in 1998, The Fred A. Lennon Charitable Trust was created to honor him posthumously, and has continued to fund and assist schools and charities in the region.
F. Clifton White
Founding Member and Executive Director of the Ashbrook Center from 1983-1992
F. Clifton White, an international public affairs and political consultant, began as Director of the Ashbrook Center in April 1983. In this position, he developed the center’s programs and was in charge of all center activities. A friend and associate of of John M. Ashbrook for 30 years, White served as senior adviser to the chairman of the Republican Party. was active in Republican Party politics for more than three decades and was known to the press as a national politician since 1964, when he was credited with securing the Republican nomination for Barry Goldwater.
A political strategist and consultant in public affairs and government relations, he was an adviser and planner for candidates running for the presidency, the Senate, the House of Representatives and governorship. He also helped on an international level as well, running a campaign for president of Venezuela Carlos Andres Perez resulting in a successful election. As a result, there was a Democratic state in Venezuela for some time because of Mr. White. He also helped on a Presidential campaign in Portugal.
In 1980, White was named senior adviser to the Republican Presidential Campaign, and in 1981 was named by President Reagan as a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Federalism. The following year, Reagan appointed him chairman of the president’s Commission on Radio Broadcasting to Cuba. (Radio Marti) White was an adviser to the ABC and CBS networks for election coverage and made numerous appearances on television and radio. After his time at Ashbrook, he continued political advising and strategy out of his home in Greenwich, CT until he passed in 1993.
Executive Director of the Ashbrook Center from 1992-1997
After a long career as a successful entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Parton enrolled at Ashland University in the fall of 1990 with the goal of becoming a civics and history teacher to help young people realize their potential. In 1991 Charles Parton became involved in the John M. Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at the university and was elected to the board of advisers. Upon graduating with honors with a bachelor of science degree in education, Parton was appointed to the Board of Advisors of the Ashbrook Center and became Executive Director in 1993. He was also elected to the board of trustees at Ashland University.
In the words of former director Peter Schramm: “Late in 1992 Charles Parton, then the new Director of the Ashbrook Center [Parton], had an idea. He thought that we ought to start a publication that would contribute to the overall educational effort of the Ashbrook Center. Since the beginning, Parton said, “the Center has championed an understanding and sober appreciation of the principles of limited constitutional government, civic morality and a free-market economy and he saw a publication of some kind as the newest contribution to that educational effort.”
We deliberated over a title. What should it be called? What do you call a publication of less than 5,000 words per issue whose chief purpose is to illuminate the pressing political and public policy questions of the day by revealing the fundamental principles that lie at the heart of them? Before the day was done, Cheryl Given had the bright idea of naming it On Principle. Her reasoning was clear and true: We are the Ashbrook Center, named after the congressman who above all things was reputed to be a man of principle. President Reagan opened the Center and was delighted to do so because it represented the principles of John Ashbrook and therefore his own.”
During his tenure as Director of the Ashbrook Center, Parton expanded and enhanced its programs—particularly the Ashbrook Scholar Program. Upon retiring in March 1997 as director of the Ashbrook Center, he was appointed chairman of the board of advisers.
Peter W. Schramm
Executive Director of the Ashbrook Center 1997 to 2013
Peter W. Schramm was born in Gyor, Hungary in 1946. Peter’s father had always told him, “We were born American, but in the wrong place.” So, for his tenth birthday, his father gave him America. His love of books and learning led to a B.A. in History in 1971; an M.A. in Government from Claremont Graduate School in 1975; an M.A. in International History from The London School of Economics in 1976; and a Ph.D. in Government from Claremont Graduate School in 1980. Out of gratitude for the freedom that had been given to him, and love for all that was worthy of love in his adopted country, Peter devoted his life to studying and teaching the principles of American freedom.
He was the founding President of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy, whose mission is to restore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful place in American life. He served in the Reagan Administration as as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Higher Education and the Director of the Center for International Education in the United States Department of Education. Beginning in 1987, he served as Associate Director, Executive Director, and Senior Fellow of the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University in Ohio, whose mission is to restore and strengthen the capacities of the American people for constitutional self-government. Starting in 1988 he also worked as Director of Special Programs at the Ashbrook Center.
As a Professor of Political Science at Ashland University and Director of the Ashbrook Scholar Program, Peter was a beloved teacher to generations of students, who learned from this immigrant the foundations of American self-government and the virtues required of a free people. He was honored with Ashland University’s Mentor Award eight times as well as the Claremont Institute’s Henry Salvatori Prize in the American Founding in 2013. Schramm joined previous prominent recipients of the prize, including George F. Will and the late William F. Buckley Jr.. Roger L. Beckett succeeded him as Executive Director of the Ashbrook Center on June 1, 2013, although he held the positions of Ashbrook Senior Fellow and Director of the Ashbrook Scholar Program until his passing in August of 2015.
Roger L. Beckett
Executive Director (2013 – present)
Roger L. Beckett is the Executive Director of the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University, a position he has held since June 2013.
Since joining the Ashbrook staff in 1997, Beckett has held numerous roles as Ashbrook has grown into the organization it is today. He has been pivotal in expanding Ashbrook into a national leader in offering history and civic education programs for students and teachers. He led the effort to create Ashbrook’s Master of Arts degree in American History and Government, both online and at Ashland University, as well as a variety of other programs for middle and high school history teachers to strengthen their understanding of American history and America’s founding principles.
Please visit our staff page to read Roger Beckett’s complete profile and recent media highlights.