If first impressions are any indication, Kent State University's incoming president appears to be personable, energetic, enthusiastic and more than ready for the challenge of leading a major institution of higher education.
Dr. Beverly Warren hit the ground running following her selection by the KSU Board of Trustees on Wednesday morning. In addition to holding a press conference at Rockwell Hall -- where she drew laughs as she told the audience "I feel like jumping out of a gift box or something -- she greeted hundreds of campus well-wishers at an afternoon reception, made an appearance at Kent City Hall to meet city leaders and rounded out her long day by taking in a basketball game at KSU, cheering on the Golden Flashes while seated amid students.
While her first day as president-designate was an extraordinary one, its action-packed agenda offered a taste of things to come: Being president of Kent State isn't a 9-to-5 job by any means, and Dr. Warren realizes that. "My pledge is a 24/7 high-energy commitment to this institution," she said following her selection.
Dr. Warren, provost and senior vice president of Virginia Commonwealth University, will become Kent State's 12th chief executive when she succeeds Dr. Lester Lefton, who will retire July 1. She will bring to the job an impressive background, combining more than 25 years of experience as an academic administrator, credentials as a researcher and service as a faculty member on five college campuses.
The new president was the only candidate recruited by the 17-member presidential search committee. KSU trustee Richard Marsh, who chaired the search panel, said the committee was seeking a president who was an outstanding academic leader, had strong administrative experience and an ability to inpire and connect with people. "Bev really had all three of those elements in a really unbeatable package," he said.
As president, Dr. Warren will take over a campus that is focused on becoming a world-class institution, one that has benefited greatly from the leadership and vision of her predecessor.
In addition to enhancing its reputation in academics, Kent State is in the midst of an extensive bricks-and-mortar upgrade as its 21st Century campus continues to take shape. And, very importantly, the university has assumed a leadership role as a key partner in the revitalization of the Kent community, forging a link -- physically and otherwise -- between the campus and its host city. Dr. Warren's decision to take time out of a very active day to meet with Kent City Council and other city leaders was a welcome sign that she values the partnership with the city fostered by Dr. Lefton, whose leadership brought Kent and Kent State closer than ever in its history.
In her remarks following her selection, the incoming president said Kent State was "the best-kept secret, not only in Northeast Ohio, but also around the country. We need to do something about that."
While Kent State's profile has risen steadily in recent years, that's a valid assessment coming from an outsider. Our guess is that Kent State's next president will focus her energy on ensuring that her successor, years from now, won't be able to say the same thing. And, based on her first public day on the Kent campus, it appears that Dr. Warren has no shortage of energy to get the job done.