Help wanted. Individual needed to administer $5.2 billion annual budget, serve 563,000 current and legacy customers, manage 16,000 acres of property and encourage collaboration among 42,000 employees including brain surgeons, rocket scientists and Urban Meyer. Successful candidate should relate equally to international leaders and wide-eyed teenagers. Duties include caring for the kids enrolled as students and changing the world. Send resumes to The Ohio State University.
Ohio State is in the process of hiring a new president. This is a really big deal, given the university’s global impact on mankind’s well-being. Millions, if not billions, of lives will be affected by the decisions this new president will make. Which is why the trustees, search committee and their advisers are keenly focused on getting this right.
One of Ohio State’s early steps was to create a profile. Among the desired characteristics are “integrity, wisdom, stamina, energy and passion.” And they want a president who is “purposeful yet open-minded, approachable, compassionate, courageous and curious.” I’d add another attribute: a deep and abiding commitment to the land-grant mission.
Land-grant universities came into being under Abe Lincoln when states were granted large tracts of federal land specifically for the purpose of creating public universities. The mission of these universities was, and is, to provide accessible, affordable education, generate world-class research and deliver skills and knowledge directly into stakeholder communities. I believe the president of Ohio State University is obliged to carry out that mission.
Whoever has the job next won’t have to look far for a model of land-grant excellence. Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences along with its Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and OSU Extension are classic examples of how the system is supposed to work. The college is producing well rounded graduates who are quickly employed. It’s creating basic knowledge that the private sector turns into products, services and jobs. And it has a presence in every county, contributing to the advancement of food and farming, helping households and improving communities, protecting the environment and developing leaders among our youth. I’m hopeful our next president recognizes that our agricultural college is a template for fulfilling the mission of a great public university.
Admittedly, I’m more engrossed in this presidential search than most of you. My interest stems from being an OSU graduate, the father of three graduates, a former member of its board of trustees and of course my job as Farm Bureau’s exec. Your organization isn’t being bashful about engaging in the selection process. Neither are others. There are politicians, educators, business leaders and a host of diverse special interests who all have something to say about who should be Ohio State’s next president. You might as well weigh in, too. The trustees have a website and they’re welcoming public input.
I wasn’t exaggerating when I said the new president can change the world. He or she will incite and inspire discoveries and developments in the arts and humanities, science, technology, engineering and math, business, education, public policy, agriculture and beyond. My hope is for a president who appreciates that while Ohioans value Nobel Prizes and national championships, what will really make us proud is a university that doesn’t stray from its 143 year old mission: preparing people to take care of themselves and take care of others.
John C. (Jack) Fisher, Ohio Farm Bureau executive vice president