Presidents: Past and Potential

Category:  News
Wednesday, January 27th, 2016 at 8:21 PM
Presidents: Past and Potential by Tracy Geibel

Edinboro University has seen a number of presidents walk through the doors of Reeder Hall.

Most recently, Dr. David J. Werner was named interim president, while the search for a permanent president continues.

Before him, Dr. Julie E. Wollman became president in 2012, but left before the spring 2016 semester.

Prior to Wollman, Dr. Jim D. Moran served as an interim president for one year after Dr. Jeremy Brown’s resignation in 2011. Brown had served as president for four years.

Dr. Frank G. Pogue was president from 1996 to 2007, and previously, Foster F. Diebold spent 17 years at Edinboro as president.

Dr. Julie E. Wollman

Dr. Julie E. Wollman became Edinboro University’s first female president in June 2012.

She was serving as vice president for academic affairs in Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts prior to coming to Edinboro. She previously held the same position at Worcester State University.

She spent nearly three and a half years as president at Edinboro when she announced in November 2015 that she would resign in January to take a job as president at Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania.

“It was a very difficult process,” Wollman said. “I wasn’t looking for a new job; I was recruited actively for this position.” She said that before accepting this position, she turned down several others for which she had also been “recruited.”

Not only is Widener closer to her hometown of Philadelphia, but also, she is anticipating the challenge.

“I love Edinboro, and as a team, we’ve made a lot of progress… I feel like we are on a really good path,” Wollman said. “I thought it was time for a new challenge and that this place would continue to grow stronger.”

“Dr. Wollman has helped us to realize our potential and areas of excellence and how far we can take that,” Dr. Roy Shinn, chairperson of the speech, language and hearing department and NCAA faculty athletics representative, said.

“She’s tried to highlight areas of existing excellence and encourage everyone to take it up to the next level.”

Dr. Jim D. Moran

Dr. Jim D. Moran, who spent about a year as an interim president at Edinboro University, currently serves as the provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of South Dakota.

In 2011, when Moran accepted a position as the interim president as Edinboro University searched for a permanent president, he didn’t know how long he’d be in the role.

“Probably the toughest thing for me, personally, was when I was appointed… I didn’t know how long my appointment was going to last,” he said.

He led the university for several months without knowing when he would be handing over the position to another set of hands, but midway through the fall semester, he found out that he’d be president until June 2012.

“I think that was very helpful, because we felt like we had a number of things started, but [knowing] whether or not they would reach a completion or fruition in that short time period was a little problematic,” Moran said. “Even though it was just a year, I think we were able to move forward and complete a number of initiatives that we started.”

He considers the improved morale on campus and the strengthened community relationship to be among his greatest accomplishments while at Edinboro.

“He handled it very well, and he had some awareness about how different processes worked, otherwise that would’ve been kind of challenging,” Shinn said. “He did his homework, and he held it together pretty well for us.”

Before coming to Edinboro, Moran served as the vice chancellor for academic affairs at the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) office located in Harrisburg, which means he was familiar with the system.

When Wollman eventually took over, Moran returned to his previous position. But, not for long, as he missed working with students.

“My experience at Edinboro made me realize that I really wanted to be back on a campus,” Moran said. “It was nice working at state policy level, but it pulled me towards working directly with students and faculty and putting those policies in place.”

When he went to an interview at the University of South Dakota, the personalities at the university made him “feel at home” and he could “feel the energy.”

Since June 2014, he has been provost there, where he focuses on student success and improving academic programs.

“It’s a very similar community to Edinboro with an institution that plays an important role in the community,” Moran said.

“Many of the lessons I learned in Edinboro I’ve been able to bring here.”

Dr. Jeremy D. Brown

Dr. Jeremy Brown served as Edinboro’s president from 2007 to 2011.

“Dr. Brown, I think, was trying to professionalize things a little more,” Shinn said. “You saw all the buildings that changed here and for better or for worse, it has a lot better look to the campus and a heightened awareness of our work and conveying that to outside bodies.”

Dr. Tony Peyronel, chairperson of the department of journalism and public relations and a former college public relations director, agrees that Brown made significant contributions, but believes that the nature and term of his presidency was also damaging in that it triggered a period of “revolving door” presidencies at Edinboro.

Since his resignation, Brown served as president at Dowling College in Long Island, New York, and Portland Community College in Oregon, both for short time periods.

According to Oregon Tech’s website, Brown now serves as an academic quality and student success committee chair there, and he also serves the boards for the Portland Business Alliance, All Hands Raised and Oregon Museum of Science & Industry.

Efforts to contact Brown through the Oregon Tech email system were unsuccessful.

Dr. Frank G. Pogue

Dr. Frank G. Pogue served as Edinboro University president from 1996 to 2007.

Dr. Emily F. Morris, who is the current vice president for university relations at St. Bonaventure University, worked as executive to the president at Edinboro University for 13 years. She worked with Pogue for 11 of those years.

“He really ramped up the fundraising, hired academic leaders and [increased] diversity,” Morris said. “You don’t have to look too far to see how important that is today, and I credit Dr. Pogue for that.”

Shinn said that while Edinboro University was historically a teacher’s college, it was Pogue’s efforts that contributed to that change.

“We were becoming more and more diverse in terms of what things we were offering and at the same time growing in the number of students we had here,” Shinn said.

After departing from Edinboro, Pogue took a position as interim president of Chicago State University for a short period of time before becoming interim president of Grambling State University in Louisiana. He eventually became the permanent president there.

In June 2014, he retired, but only a few months later in November, he took another interim presidency, this one at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania.

“I’d say he completely failed at retirement,” Morris said. “If he ever failed at anything, he failed at retirement.”

Dr. Foster Diebold

Foster Diebold spent 17 years serving as Edinboro University president. He began in 1979 and retired in 1996, handing the job over to Pogue.

“He had planned his retirement for two years, so it was an incredibly smooth transition,” Morris said. “He really made a very personal commitment to making sure it was a smooth transition; he invited Dr. Pogue to come to the campus and meet people and interact.”

“When it came to the transition, it enabled Pogue to come in and know what he was walking into and what the challenges and opportunities were. It enabled him to have a long and very successful presidency.”

New President: Search Process

The university announced an interim president in December 2015, but the search for a permanent president continues.

“There isn’t really time to do a national search for a president (referring to the switch from Wollman to Werner),” the University of South Dakota’s Moran said. “A search for a president takes some time.”

“If the president has announced retirement a year from now, that’s when you can move from president to president. Otherwise, you are pretty much looking at an interim.”

As it is the middle of the school year, Shinn expects the search process to take some time.

“You want to do it right so that you get a really good match and the institution can continue to flourish.”

More so, the process is costly and time-consuming, so Morris suggests looking at potential candidates’ history and background. “What you are really looking for is a fit,” she said.

This means considering what a candidate’s professional and personal needs and aspirations are.

“You are recruiting a new leader,” Morris said. “This is a two sided interview process. They are interviewing you, just as you are interviewing them. You are recruiting, not just hiring.”

“Ideally, you will be able to find someone who will be able to get in there quickly and hit the ground running,” Morris said.

New President: Consequences A new president means change, and it means more than just a change in leadership. It means a potential change in ideas, potential change in plans, potential change in stability, and potential change in the university’s future path.

“I guess it depends how you are compatible with the president that’s in at the time,” Shinn said. “If it’s someone you really feel is good for the institution, you want them forever.”

“It was disappointing to lose Dr. Wollman. I thought that she was taking us in a good direction, but I also understand… and I’m very happy for her.”

According to Morris, stability is of high importance in higher education.

“[It’s] because of the nature of our decision making process,” she said. “It takes a while to affect sustainable change.”

Two professors, both of whom asked to be unidentified, agree on Morris’s stance about stability, but they worry that while the university is able to make a plan, it might not be able to see that plan through with the transition between leaders.

“Every time a president comes in things change because they have their own vision,” one said. “Change is a good thing when you are growing, but… when you keep getting new presidents… you have to keep revisiting your planning process and things you would like to have more traction on and moving further down the road with aren’t happening.”

“That’s happened in the past,” they continued. “Brown, Moran and Wollman. All three of them had different approaches to planning.”

Morris suggests that the search process serve as a way for the university to audit itself.

“You have to decide what you are going to say to candidates as to why it would be a good opportunity for them to come work with the faculty and the students there,” she said. “It may be an opportunity for an institution to say, ‘what kind of leader do we want to attract?’ and ‘what kind of commitment are we going to make to that leader?’”

Tracy Geibel is the executive editor for The Spectator and she can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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