Sitting down and having discussions with business, government and community leaders is a part of this communications/BizVoice editor gig that is truly enjoyable. And conversations with university presidents or chancellors are always intriguing. Most, as expected, are excellent communicators. Some (no, I’m not going to name names) give you the impression the talk might be at a higher level than the actions to follow.
I enjoyed a recent sit-down with Geoff Mearns, the 18th president of my alma mater – Ball State. The focus was to be on university-community engagement. It shifted a bit to K-12 when legislation currently making its way through the Indiana General Assembly would place Ball State in the role of managing the troubled Muncie Community Schools. (Read more on both here).
Mearns is impressive – not just in our talk but in the views of many in Muncie and beyond. A trial lawyer for 15-plus years, he says the most important skill (in that job and his current one) is listening. He’s doing just that and taking the initial steps to move BSU in the right direction as it prepares to look beyond the 2018 celebration of its 100th anniversary.
Although Terry King served in an interim role for nearly a year and a half, Ball State is coming off the still mysterious departure of Paul Ferguson. Yes, these situations when a relationship at such a high level does not work out are tricky, but as a journalism graduate of the school, it was extremely disappointing to see the lack of transparency/communication when Ferguson was suddenly gone in January 2016. In fact, he had been in our Indiana Chamber offices less than two weeks earlier for a BizVoice roundtable.
On the positive side, Beverley Pitts was a longtime BSU administrator who served as interim president for a portion of 2004 before Jo Ann Gora began a decade-long tenure. Pitts went on to the same role at the University of Indianapolis from 2005-2012. Here is a conversation we shared upon her retirement. Her journalism background – and those strong communication abilities – may have played a part in my admiration of her leadership.
A note on another BSU president. John Worthen moved into that spot in 1984 (the year I graduated) and served until 2000 (bringing some much-needed stability). And then he stayed in Muncie. The basketball/volleyball home is now Worthen Arena and I’m told the former president is frequently on hand to cheer on the Cardinals.