The University of Akron planned for a single ballroom and an hour and a half for the campus community to meet its president-elect Thursday morning.

Neither was enough.

The receiving line to meet Gary L. Miller and his wife, Georgia Nix Miller, snaked out of the third-floor ballroom of the student union, down a hallway and past the elevators.

Despite it being summer break, at least 500 staff members, students and others turned out to meet the newly anointed first couple. The Millers stayed an extra 20 minutes to greet everyone who came.

"Whatever it takes," Miller told a staff member who gave him a heads-up that he might be there past the scheduled end time.

The excitement of a new president, and finally a permanent one after almost a year and a half, drew the community to the ballroom.

Jackson Hankins, who will be a senior this fall, said it reminded him of when he first came to Akron when Matthew Wilson was president.

"This is the first time it's felt like what I came into," Hankins said.

He and his co-worker in athletic development, Brooke Slama, who will be a junior, stood in line for their first chance to meet the Millers.

Slama said she was hoping Miller would be personable with students.

"I hope he's fun, gets along with the kids," she said.

Hankins agreed that he hoped Miller would "show his face" on campus often, but also had expectations around Miller's tenure.

"I'm hoping to hear he's going to stick around," Hankins said.

Miller will be the fourth president at the university in four years. What the school needs now, Hankins said, is someone to be the "backbone" of the university.

"Hopefully, Akron becomes Akron again," he said.

Staff member Allison Franco, a Title IX case manager who deals with cases of sexual misconduct on campus, said she and two co-workers came to the event to introduce themselves to the Millers.

"We wanted to make sure they knew our faces at least," she said.

Franco spoke directly with Nix Miller about their work.

"She said she was very passionate about that topic, so we're very appreciative of that," Franco said.

Luke Southward, who will be a senior, was excited to make a personal connection with Gary L. Miller, who at the College of William & Mary was a member of Southward's fraternity, Kappa Sigma.

"My entire fraternity was ecstatic about that," Southward said.

He said he was hoping Miller could encourage more utilization of Greek organizations as a way of pulling in more students who don't live on campus.

Southward was looking forward to the changes Miller could bring, and perhaps the time he might spend with the Kappa Sigmas.

"He'll probably come to my fraternity and chitchat with us," he said.

 

Contact Jennifer Pignolet at jpignolet@thebeaconjournal.com, at 330-996-3216 or on Twitter @JenPignolet.