MUNCIE — During the presidency of Jo Ann Gora (2004-2014), Ball State University aspired to become like Miami University in Oxford, Ohio — known for its strong commitment to undergraduate teaching — or like the College of William & Mary, a "public Ivy" in Williamsburg, Va., where Gora moved after leaving BSU.
When her successor, Paul Ferguson (2014-2016), was asked by The Star Press which institution BSU should strive to emulate, he responded that sustainability and entrepreneurship had become so "in-depth and ingrained and pervasive" at Ball State that "we become the model to others … It is Ball State, not a copy of somebody else."
During a recent sit-down interview at the Bracken Administration Building, new President Geoffrey S. Mearns was asked the same question.
But before looking ahead, he glanced back at what he has done since taking over in May.
"I think the onboarding and transition plan went very well," Mearns said. He received a road map for that from a 38-member transition committee headed by Trustee Tom Bracken and a Chicago-area onboarding consultant hired by the board of trustees.
From May through August, his transition activities included engagements with 16 members of Congress, more than 20 state lawmakers, Gov. Eric Holcomb, all nine Muncie City Council members, Mayor Dennis Tyler, the Ball foundations, chamber of commerce and business leaders, Rotary clubs, alumni and others; tours of campus and IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital; three community forums; hundreds of philanthropy-related meetings, personal phone calls, letters and dinners at Bracken House; media interviews from Evansville to Fort Wayne; student picnics, convocations, orientation, pep rallies and so forth; and meetings with faculty and staff.
"Proud and Loyal" alumni events took him to Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, South Bend, Cincinnati, Chicago, and San Francisco, to which he will return this year in addition to trips to Los Angeles and Florida.
►Looking back at Jo Ann Gora's accomplishments
Looking over photographs documenting the transition, Mearns points to one of him with Vice President Mike Pence and said, "People think that's my favorite." "But it's this one," he added, referring to a picture of him kneeling down to welcome a Burris Laboratory School student (missing a front tooth) on her first day of school.