Current Otterbein students will never know the comfort of passing Peg Harmon and her bulldogs as they walk to class.
Harmon, 73, died on July 16, 2018 of Alzheimer’s disease. For 40 years, she lived next to the fraternity house Pi Kappa Phi, otherwise known as “Club.” She and her bulldogs became a fixture on campus, stopping to talk to students or even paying a visit to the library or classrooms. She was a warm and giving person—welcoming student groups like Sisters United into her house for meetings and even providing a rent-free room for students to stay in if needed.
“She had a spirit that was amazing,” said former Library Director Lois Szudy. “She was the most intelligent woman that I have ever met.”
Although born in Washington D.C. where her father worked under Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, Harmon grew up in Mentor, Ohio. She received her bachelor’s degree from Miami University and later received her master’s degree from The Ohio State University. Harmon taught at South High School in Columbus until the mid 1980s. She received “Educator of the Year” there in 1982.
In 2008, Otterbein presented an Honorary Alumna Award to Harmon, citing her devotion to Otterbein and her promotion of diversity on campus. She was particularly fond of her neighbors, Pi Kappa Phi, especially since the fraternity was the first on campus to accept African-American students. Harmon’s bond with the young women of Sisters United was so strong that many referred to her as “Mom” and several kept in touch with her up until her death.
In her decades on Otterbein’s campus, Harmon had approximately 10 different English bulldogs. One year, Harmon and her bulldogs were the grand marshals for Otterbein’s Homecoming parade.
In the early 2000s, Harmon set up a scholarship to honor one particular member of Sisters United, the Peg Harmon/Sarabella Johnson Scholarship Fund. It was just one of the ways Harmon gave to Otterbein, said Szudy, also citing that Harmon would often donate books to the library as well.
Following her Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, Harmon moved to the Parkside Village Senior Living, located next to the Otterbein Equestrian Center, in 2015.
Szudy helped relocate Harmon’s beloved pets and even took in one of Harmon’s cats herself.
Harmon had two bulldogs at the time: Charlie and Hobbes. Although Charlie has since passed, Hobbes (who’s full name is actually S. Robert Hobbes after Otterbein Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs Robert Gatti) is living happily with his new family.
Jennifer Pearce, former executive director of marketing and communications at Otterbein, and her family adopted Hobbes in the fall of 2015. Since then, the family has moved to Bristol, Virginia where Hobbes spends his days chasing birds and chewing on his purple ball— the same ball he’s had since his time with Harmon.
“You could tell [Harmon] was so sweet to that dog,” said Pearce. “He’s so sweet and he loves people.”
Harmon’s house has since been sold, and it has been so long since she has walked campus with her dogs that current students don’t know about her. However, ask alumni and certain faculty about the “bulldog lady” and their memories of Otterbein are full of her and her warmth.
Just as Otterbein was an important part of Harmon’s life, Harmon was an important part of Otterbein and the hundreds of lives she touched while here. For that, we remember her.