Exploring the legacy of Robert Glidden as he retires after 10 years of leadership at Ohio University
June 20, 2004
Stories by Mary Alice Casey and Joan Slattery Wall
"Ohio University is a unique place, and we wanted someone who could maintain that culture, and Bob certainly has."
-- Charlotte Eufinger
Ten years ago, Charlotte Eufinger served on the search committee seeking a replacement for retiring Ohio University President Charles Ping. An array of good qualities made candidate Robert Glidden, then provost at Florida State, a frontrunner for the job.
Ohio University President Robert Glidden
"We wanted someone who had high integrity who maintained that standard of our prior presidents," says Eufinger, now chair of The Ohio University Foundation.
The panel was attracted by Glidden's focus on academics, particularly at the undergraduate level; a management style known for building consensus; a keen interest in technology; and his recognition that the University should be a catalyst for economic development in southeast Ohio.
For his part, Glidden was immediately impressed by the affection students and alumni had for the University.
"Certainly we know our students love it here. That's a precious thing," says Glidden, who is retiring June 30 after exactly 10 years as president. "If you don't have it, it's almost impossible to build it. And I recognized it when I first came here. I just wanted to be sure I didn't mess it up."
He knew there would be challenges, including the need to analyze the undergraduate curriculum, integrate new technology and place greater emphasis on research. He'd also have to address the prevalence of faculty nearing retirement age and scrutinize the use of every dollar.
Glidden was up to the tasks. He had honed his leadership skills in a number of settings as a music professor, music school dean, provost and vice president for academic affairs. He clearly loves the direction his career took when he arrived in Athens.
"I think my favorite parts of the job are being in a position to -- and you don't do this every day of your life, but occasionally -- take new, exciting ideas and make them work," he says. "When I was a conductor, my greatest joy was taking a brand new piece of music and forging sound out of it. And I think that's probably what gives me the greatest satisfaction at this job."
"He has really articulated a strong and important vision for Ohio University."
-- Dean Leslie Flemming
Glidden has focused the mission of Ohio University on five major goals: providing a distinctive undergraduate education that prepares students for their lives and careers, finding creative approaches to graduate education, emphasizing research and creative activity, maximizing the learning opportunities made possible by the residential campus environment and expanding service to the region.
"I think he pushed the University forward in new areas while respecting the revered traditions and character of the campus," says John Susany, AB '83, an Ohio University Foundation board member who previously headed the alumni association board. For example, Susany says, initiatives aimed at top students such as the Cutler and Copeland scholars programs, Global Learning Community and Office of Nationally Competitive Awards reap benefits for the entire University.
As one means toward achieving the University's goals, Glidden encouraged faculty, staff and students to embrace technology.
"I think the decision to put computers in the dormitories was a superb one," says Tom Carpenter, the Charles J. Ping Professor of Humanities, referring to the 1999 initiative, a first in the state, to place at least one computer in every residence hall room. "His awareness of the importance of technological issues in teaching in a variety of different areas was important."
Many say Glidden's presidency also will be noted for its campus improvements, the likes of which haven't been seen since the building boom of the 1960s. Projects have included Grover Center, Gordy Hall and Memorial Auditorium renovations; Bentley and Copeland hall expansions and improvements; the development of Emeriti Park; and construction of the Life Sciences Building and Margaret M. Walter Hall. Ground was broken this spring for a new student center expected to open by 2007.
"We are known for the nature of our environment," says Vice President for Administration Gary North. "We can't take that for granted. We need to continue to maintain that and build on it."
NEXT: President Glidden's dedication to students, faculty and staff
Mary Alice Casey is editor and Joan Slattery Wall is assistant editor of Ohio Today.