A public research university of 27,000 students is a complex, many layered operation. It helps to have experienced such an institution from many angles before taking on the university presidency. In that way, the University of Akron trustees chose well in selecting Scott Scarborough, the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Toledo, to lead the school. Of the three finalists considered for the job, he appeared the most prepared, both on paper and during his public presentation last week.
The first question Scarborough faced in the presentation involved his decision to increase faculty workloads at Toledo as part of dealing with budget pressures. He answered in a reasoned, logical way, adding context, even admitting lessons learned. So it went during the session. He revealed a breadth of knowledge and understanding about the world that surrounds large public universities and how they must work to succeed. He showed a command of the detail and a broader strategic view.
Scarborough has the advantage of knowing Ohio, having spent the past seven years at Toledo in leadership positions. Now he can put his skills to work on the challenges at Akron, which are both similar and different.
The university has been mobilizing to do better attracting, retaining and graduating students, especially in view of the state altering the formula for routing money to higher education. As already has been evident, this is no small task, bringing many difficult decisions and much change. It also involves the imperative of maintaining and elevating quality.
One appealing aspect of the 15 years Luis Proenza has spent in the university presidency has been his ambition for the school and the region. Scarborough has expressed his wish to build on what he predecessor has accomplished. That starts with the university as part of a larger vision for the area, and then making the choices required to fill in the elements, the new president delivering on the ethic of teamwork he emphasized in his presentation.
For instance, this community will not seize the opportunity in the field of biomaterials without the university leading the way.
Many in the city and beyond warmed to the idea of Jim Tressel serving as the university president. The former Ohio State football coach no doubt learned much during his two years as a UA vice president. Yet he lacked the preparation of Scott Scarborough, and then there is the fallout that continues to hover from his serious lapses in judgment at Ohio State. He got his chance on Friday morning, accepting the presidency at Youngstown State. Now both schools can move forward. The University of Akron trustees made the right choice, one reflecting the importance of the school here and across the region.