An interactive look back at year one in office


Kody Kahle

President Mearn’s at Spring 2013 Convocation

President Mearns’ first year as president comes to a close, NKU community reflects

As the summer quickly approaches for students, President Geoffrey Mearns is also approaching the end of his first academic year on campus.

He’s made himself at home on campus, finding his favorite turkey sub at Mondo Subs and the turkey pesto sandwich from Einstein Bros Bagels, and he’s established relationships to help him take on challenges for the university, as well as prepare to take on a new strategic plan.

From raising the standard of students, securing funds for a new Campus Recreation Center and working through the biggest disappointment of the year for him, the termination of Athletic Director Scott Eaton, Mearns has been open, transparent and willing to listen.

Students were the focus for Mearns and he made that clear through his efforts to reach out through Twitter, lunch with the casts of “Grease” and “Legally Blonde” and having dinner at his home with the Presidential Ambassadors.

After his lunch with the theatre cast, Mearns said he received the “world’s largest thank-you card,” with a smile and proudly showed off the card in his office.

In regards to being visible on campus, the president said “you have to do it through as much direct communication as you can … the more opportunities I have to meet the students, the better for me.”

“The students are ever-present,” Mearns said, also noting that their success is inspiring.

“When you get to see what is the real impact of what we’re all collectively doing, faculty and staff, it really gives you energy to tackle some of the problems that you have because you get to see what it’s producing.”

Mearns isn’t just building relationships with students, he is working actively to talk with the faculty, staff and outside community for help in creating the new strategic plan.

In fact, Mearns considered one of his biggest achievements of this year to be building the campus beautification plan with the facilities staff, not for the campus improvement, but for the reminder to not let the power get to his head, which often happens to people with a high title.

“It really reminded me in a very powerful and enduring way, the value of engaging everybody,” he said. “At a university, there are thousands of people who have good ideas and you want to create a culture where people feel empowered and inspired to share their ideas because they believe someone will listen.”

Mearns not only wants to listen to the community, but also wants the community to listen to him and be aware of transparency, specifically with Scott Eaton’s termination, which was Mearns’ biggest challenge.

He said it wasn’t emotionally difficult or personally terribly stressful, but he said he was more concerned with ensuring the comfort of faculty, staff and students.

“What made it difficult was knowing that once my decision was announced that there were people who were going to be sad, hurt; there were people who were going to be disappointed … I recognize that it was my responsibility right from the outset … to get everyone else focused on doing all the good things that they do every day,” he said.

For next year, Mearns has already begun preparing for new top administrators to take their seats at the university. By the fall, he will have appointed a new provost, athletic director and vice president for university advancement.

He said he’s working with the natural turnover, but is also looking forward to meeting people with a renewed passion and vision for higher education.

“It gives me an opportunity to identify people who are like me, excited by the opportunities that exist here and who are passionate about our mission,” he said. “And also whose personality and temperament is consistent with mine so, you know, there’s a nice fit there.”

With some new executive board members, Mearns wants to focus more on moving forward with the Health Innovations Center, the one thing he said he didn’t focus on enough this year.

But with one academic year behind him, Mearns said the year has gone well. He’s still adjusting and managing time with his family because of a fuller schedule.

“We all went into this with our eyes open in terms of understanding what that was going to mean, so they’re pretty resilient, too … plus they don’t have to worry about me asking them to change the channel on the TV, they have free reign over the remote control.”

— Kevin Schultz and Stephen Wilder contributed to this story

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