Celebrating the great Tom Otten

Major Cranley gives Mr. Otten the key to the city

Brian Bill

Major Cranley gives Mr. Otten the key to the city


After serving the Elder community for over 48 years, Principal Tom Otten has recently been receiving the rewards and appreciation he fully deserves.

During the Elder student-faculty volleyball game February 5th, Mr. Otten was honored with a surprise ceremony to commemorate his duty to Elder over the years. During this assembly, Mr. Otten was given a plague to recognize his hard work and dedication to the community of Elder, and was given several standing ovations from the hundreds of Elder students and faculty that echoed off the walls of Elder. These are the same walls that Mr. Otten (graduating from Elder in 1964) walked through as both a student and as a member of its faculty for almost five decades.

The applause seemed special to one Elder senior, who said in those moments he felt the roar of the entire Elder alumni in the gym that day.

“It’s awesome to see a man that has done so much for the school get that kind of cheer,” said Jake Tedesco who was behind the scorer’s table at the time. “It was like every person that went to Elder and knew Mr. Otten while he was principal was cheering was so loud to thank him for everything he’s done for the community.”. Jake told me that he feels this will go down as one of his favorite memories as an Elder student, and one he will never forget.

From Otten’s point of view, the whole afternoon was a complete shock to him, as members of the faculty and student council were able to keep this operation as quiet as possible. Mr. Otten told me that this surprise was like something he has never experienced before, and one he’ll never forget.

“We’ve all had experiences with surprises, but it is generally something small. This was like a surprise on steroids, overwhelming in fact,” Mr. Otten told me. “I’ve walked in there for so many assemblies over the years, and I wasn’t expecting anything different but the surprise was all on me.”

Mr. Otten told me in his mind he was trying to figure out how no one spilled the beans, while also taking in every second of it. “Sometimes you get an itch, a feeling that something isn’t normal, but not this time,” he said.

Mr. Otten with his family and friends just outside the volleyball gym
Brian Bill
Mr. Otten with his family and friends just outside the volleyball gym

Other than being surprised, Mr. Otten was eternally grateful for everything that went on that afternoon. “I was surprised in the best of ways. My students, staff, my family, friends, community activists, Cincinnati’s mayor, police officers, Elder board members and even some of my friends from grade and high school were there. The success of Elder is because it’s a team effort, and I’m honored to be a part of that team,” he said.

Not only did Mr. Otten get a plaque, he also was given a key to the city from Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, who also proclaimed it “Tom Otten Day” across the Queen City. Although it won’t technically be Tom Otten Day every single February 5th, it will be for senior Ben Allison.

The official proclamation of "Tom Otten Day" in Cincinnati
The official proclamation of “Tom Otten Day” in Cincinnati

“Every time February 5th rolls around, I know I’m going to treat it as a holiday. Purple will be worn just like we did every Friday at school, and I’ll always think back to that day in the volleyball gym,” Ben said.

As a senior this year, it’s an honor and a privilege to be a student under Tom Otten. From his purple suit to his smile while he walks around greeting students around school, Mr. Otten is the definition of what it means to be a man of Elder, and is a clear example for what it really means to strive for the higher things.