The surprising literary retirement of Ohio State's former budget chief

The surprising literary retirement of Ohio State's former budget chief

They called him Dr. No.

In the two decades that William Shkurti oversaw the finances of Ohio State University, he was renowned for relentlessly questioning—and denying—spending requests. This numbers-crunching life of public service had always been his way: Before joining OSU in 1988, he directed the state's finances, leading the Ohio Office of Budget and Management under then-Gov. Richard Celeste.

But even as Shkurti had retirement from OSU in his headlights, he didn't yet know what might come next. Then one Sunday morning, as he left his Upper Arlington home and drove to the nearby Kroger, a voice from the radio caught his attention.

“It was one of those self-help commercials, something like, ‘Looking for a change? Do what you've always wanted to do,'” recalls Shkurti, who's known as Bill by most folks. “So I did.”

He turned to his love of both research and history and set his sights on writing a book. A year after officially retiring as the university's senior vice president for business and finance in 2010, he published “Soldiering on in a Dying War: The True Story of the Firebase Pace Incidents and the Vietnam Drawdown.”

This second act isn't so much a reinvention as a return to his roots. Growing up, Shkurti rarely missed an episode of the television history showsYou are ThereandThe Twentieth Century. History was always his best school subject; he was only two credit hours shy of a history major when he earned his OSU economics degree in 1968 and enlisted in the Army, spending a year fighting in Vietnam. “Part of it was natural curiosity, wondering about why things went on exactly as they did,” says the 70-year-old, who remains an adjunct professor at OSU's John Glenn College of Public Affairs.

He published his second work in August with “The Ohio State University in the Sixties: The Unraveling of the Old Order,” a deep dive into the long-building tensions that culminated in the unprecedented closure of the campus as war protests mounted in May 1970.

Shkurti now is a regular guest in David Steigerwald's “America in the '60s” class. The two have become friends in recent years, and Steigerwald saw a new side of a man he previously knew only as a bean-counter. “I remember being in meetings with him when he was in his Dr. No role and just his presence was kind of foreboding,” Steigerwald says. “Then you get to know him, and he is such a pleasant guy.”

And he seems to be having a blast these days, visiting the gym each morning and wearing blue jeans to morning coffees. But he loves meeting readers the most.

“People are delighted that you're writing about something significant to them,” he says. “They are so engaged. I really enjoy that.”

Shkurti has already written his third book, “A Ticket to Ride,” an e-book that takes a look at student life at OSU in the 1960s. Toga parties, anyone?