Gary Miller should know how much the city and region want him to succeed as the new president of the University of Akron. The school has experienced a rocky five years with three presidents, interim and permanent. It has been difficult to watch. Miller said at his introduction on Wednesday that “the future of this university depends on our continued deep relationship with the city and the area around it.” The same goes for the community. Its future depends, in no small way, on the university.

Miller noted that part of what attracted him to the university is a “deep sense of optimism” on the campus. There is reason to be hopeful — because of the talented and dedicated faculty, the commitment of the alumni and that wider understanding about the school’s importance.

What is needed is an engaged, visible, informed and forward-looking leader. In that way, Miller brings strong credentials with experience, and successes, at the highest ranks of universities in Wisconsin, North Carolina and Kansas. Joseph Gingo, the chairman of the UA board of trustees, noted Miller’s skill as a “consensus builder,” or what would serve the university well.

The introduction of a new president is a time for saying all the right things. The test comes in the execution. No doubt, the university faces steep challenges with declining enrollment and strained finances, the two closely related. Yet it must contend with something else fundamental — the pervasive distrust, particularly between the faculty and the administration, including the trustees. The university won’t move forward without bridging this divide.

Thus, it was encouraging that Miller said he wants to take on the problem through “intensive discussions.” It won’t help to echo the recent responses of trustees and administrators, arguing that the unhappiness involves the usual carping in the wake of “really, really tough decisions.” Or that the criticism amounts to mere positioning by the faculty union. Or that the concerns would be taken more seriously if actual grievances had been filed.

As a recent faculty survey made plain, and what the campus long has known, the university has a leadership problem in Rex Ramsier, the current chief administrative officer, or provost in all but name. The absence of formal grievances reinforces the criticism that he is vindictive and unfair. Who would file if the matter goes to Ramsier?

The opening is here for the new president to build his own team and, more, to consult widely on campus and in the community, beyond the voices of the trustees and current top administrators. It is worth recalling, again, that UA has been led in recent years by administrators who are not the products of national searches, or the pursuit of the best available.

The university needs one other thing, which would help with enrollment, finances and morale — a true and realistic strategic plan. The beginnings of one have taken shape through the academic program review and university reorganization. Here is an opportunity for Miller to take the lead, deploying those “intensive discussions” to rally a broad consensus around the answer to the question: What will UA be in 10 years, given its challenges and its many strengths?

If Miller accomplishes nothing else, his time will be viewed as a success.

The university board chairman applauded the secretive selection process for generating a large pool of qualified candidates. He would not reveal even the number of those who applied. This isn’t the transparent way in which a public university should conduct its business, though UA hardly is alone on this front. What matters now is Gary Miller getting into the job with so many around here hoping he succeeds.