UPDATE: Campus reacts to Mearns’ departure
January 24, 2017
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. — President Geoffrey Mearns will leave Northern Kentucky University after four years, the university announced Tuesday, and the campus community was shocked by news of his departure.
Mearns was hired at Ball State University to serve as their 17th president, an announcement made at the Muncie, Indiana campus at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. Mearns notified the Board of Regents that he will not renew his contract, which expires July 31, according to a release.
Shirley Burris, administrative assistant in the advising center for the College of
Education and Human Services, said she didn’t know Mearns was leaving until she saw him standing behind a Ball State podium on a live video stream.
“I’m still in shock a little bit,” Burris said. “Did I miss something? Did I miss an email, like woah, where did this come from?”
Burris, who has worked at the university since 1979, said she was “disappointed” that the NKU community wasn’t notified sooner.
“I felt that he didn’t have enough respect for us to tell us he was leaving before making the statement at Ball State,” Burris said.
Burris wasn’t alone. Kerry Stephens, a freshman electronic media and broadcasting major, said she was also surprised by the news of Mearns’ departure.
Clare Mearns, President Mearns’ daughter, said in a statement she supports her father’s decision.
“I fully support my father’s decision and hope the NKU community will be able to understand and support him as well. I am so proud of everything my dad has accomplished at NKU and I know that the best days are ahead for our university,” Clare Mearns said.
“As a freshman, I’m still learning a lot more about the university — so I didn’t know that much about what he does or his involvement — but I know he’s very influential, especially with NKU’s growth,” Stephens said. “So I kind of hope that whoever comes and takes his spot can continue to help NKU as it grows.”
Senior Lauren McClanahan said President Mearns will be missed. The communication studies major said she’ll miss seeing Mearns at university events.
“The first thing I thought of was seeing that cardboard cut-out of his head at basketball games,” McClanahan said. “What are we going to do now?”
She also said Mearns has left a lasting impact on NKU and what campus is today.
Disappointed to learn Geoffrey Mearns is leaving NKU but happy for the progress made during his tenure. Best of luck at BSU Prez Mearns.
— @Bruns1982 (@SteveBruns1982) January 24, 2017
I feel betrayed by Mearns
— kb (@hiyaprincess) January 24, 2017
NOOOOOO MEARNS IS BAE IM PISSED
— crybaby hannah (@checkcheckhey) January 24, 2017
“In terms of literal growth, our new rec center is absolutely outstanding. We are literally growing, with the Health Innovation Center, the move to Division I athletics … It’s hard to say that he didn’t have a huge impact on NKU,” McClanahan said.
Michael Baranowski, president of the faculty senate, said in an email statement that he always expected Mearns wouldn’t be at NKU forever.
“He’s smart and talented and so many schools would kill to have him,” Baranowski wrote. “We were fortunate enough he came here nearly five years ago and Ball State is lucky to have him. I’m confident that the Board of Regents will find an outstanding successor to President Mearns, but it won’t be an easy job because he’ll be a tough act to follow.”
Perhaps no one will miss Mearns more than Will Weber. The senior Student Government Association President has worked closely with Mearns throughout his college career, even serving alongside Mearns on the Board of Regents.
“I have very mixed emotions … from a student’s perspective, it’s really sad to see him go,” Weber said. “This was the guy that — he was the leader you could get behind — he was the face of NKU for so long.”
Weber said some of his favorite memories include working with Mearns on campus plans and initiatives, and he’s confident Mearns has paved the way for the next president.
“It’s like we’re rounding third and heading for home,” Weber said. “And Mearns won’t be there to see it all come to fruition, but he put us in a place where he was there with us to go around those three bases … the best thing we can do right now is to put the right person in this position fulfills those core values of NKU that President Mearns has.”