Tiffin most definitely a college town

“It’s time Tiffin quits being a community with two colleges, and we start becoming a college town.” This quote from Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz some six years ago intrigued me when it was mentioned in a conversation I had with Heidelberg University President Rob Huntington.

It was spoken by Montz, a Heidelberg graduate and longtime Tiffin resident and spoke to something I wondered since moving here.

Why do some people act as if the two universities are invisible and shouldn’t Tiffin embrace the unique place of being a relatively small city with two strong institutions of higher learning?

To me, it’s a no brainer. This community should embrace Heidelberg and Tiffin University and all that they bring here — whether it is youthful exuberance, businesses catered to students and those who work at the universities or college athletics and performing arts.

I’ll tip my hand and say that I am a fan of university towns. I like the energy they provide and I find college campuses beautiful. Knowledge is power, and I like being places where thinking and learning are taking place. Plus, I’m a big fan of college athletics.

I also fully understand the home-town spirit that Tiffin and this region has, and the equally enjoyable comfort in places that invoke Main Street USA like Tiffin does. There is a small-town charm here, where neighbors are connected to one another and there is a fiber woven between this town’s past and its present.

I feel, however, that both of the senses of place can coexist. No, I don’t ever envision Tiffin becoming like an Ann Arbor or Bloomington-type college town. But I don’t think you see some of the recent business and downtown development in Tiffin without the universities, as their events draw more than just students with friends, family and alumni coming into town, shopping in our stores, eating at our restaurants and staying at our hotels.

I also believe the frequent construction on both universities’ campuses make our town look fresh. Some of the prettiest walks and paths in town are in the areas on and near the two campuses.

And I know that many of the students of Heidelberg and Tiffin come from outside this county and leave after four years. But a number of them have stayed and have added to the fabric of what makes this community tick. Montz is an example, but there are many others. Many of this area’s current or future leaders are graduates of Heidelberg or TU.

In my initial observations of this area, there is nothing that will take away from the down-home nature I feel in Tiffin and Seneca County. There are too many connections, too much history and too much agriculture to erode away at the small-town feel here.

But I would encourage all to embrace the uniqueness of two universities. The signs say Tiffin is “The Education Community,” which doesn’t sound like too far of a stretch for a college town.

Go check out a sporting event or concert this fall. Take a walk around campus. Say hi to students wearing green and gold or orange and black.

I’m excited to be part of a community that includes two higher learning institutions. I look forward to more partnerships between the universities and the community and feel that just like The Advertiser-Tribune, a healthy and thriving Heidelberg and TU mean a healthy and thriving community.

After all, Tiffin most definitely is a college town.

Jeremy Speer is the publisher of The Advertiser-Tribune. He can be reached at jspeer@advertiser-tribune.com.