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A fine reflection
Exploring the legacy of Robert Glidden as he retires after 10 years of leadership at Ohio University

June 23, 2004
Stories by Mary Alice Casey and Joan Slattery Wall

"He is a tireless fundraiser."
-- Foundation Chair Charlotte Eufinger

ROBERT GLIDDEN


Ohio University President Robert Glidden

Under President Robert Glidden's watch, the University has undertaken its most ambitious fundraising effort ever -- the four-year Bicentennial Campaign, which surpassed its goal of raising $200 million for scholarships, endowed professorships, technological enhancements, innovative programs and limited capital improvements.

"I have no shame whatsoever, no hesitance to ask somebody for money for the University," Glidden says, "because I so believe in it and what it does, and how important it is."

That was no easy task, considering the country's economy during the last few years.

"Since 9-11, there have been things that have occurred that certainly no one would have expected to occur," says Charlotte Eufinger, chair of The Ohio University Foundation.

Glidden acknowledges that the time he has spent on development work is both a blessing, since he's able to meet with many interesting alumni, and a challenge, because of the time involved.

"Sometimes I wish that I could have devoted less time to all those activities and could spend more time just focusing on the academic enterprise, being engaged with faculty and generating ideas," he says. "But you can't do everything. I have to remember what my job really is. Because that's a thing I just about have to do."

While members of the University community also have observed the challenges of having a president so involved in the campaign, they recognize the importance of such work.

"In the last couple of years he's been so busy with this Bicentennial Campaign, and it's a shame because I think that's taken away from his more personal contact with people on the campus," points out Charlie Adkins, president of the local American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "So I think he's probably sacrificed a hell of a lot of himself for the betterment and the future of this institution, and I commend him for that."

With state funding for education diminishing across the country, such campaigns will become even more vital, Glidden says.

"The whole campaign is about the future of the University," he says. "It's to build endowment, which provides extras that make you something more than just another public university."

"He's a person who has developed a great compassion for his adopted region."
-- Alumnus John Susany

Looking beyond the borders of campus, Glidden has been a strong advocate for service to Appalachian Ohio.

The University is heavily involved in economic development efforts that benefit the region, working closely with local governments and agencies on undertakings such as technology projects and environmental action. Expanding educational options for area students also has been emphasized, and undergraduate enrollment on the University's five regional campus -- often cited by Glidden as a particular source of pride -- has climbed by about 1,000 students in the past decade.

Athens Mayor Ric Abel, BBA '67, says he's appreciated Glidden's willingness to work with the city.

"He does make efforts to get out and talk to people in the community and within the University, and that's what has made him a lot more successful than he might have been. His style was one of inclusion," Abel says. "He has fostered a recognition that the community and the University have been together a long time and there are a lot of positives."

There are local critics, though. Art Gish, an organic farmer who has lived in the county since 1977, frequently uses the editorial pages of Athens newspapers to express concern with decisions of the Glidden administration. Gish believes the community should have more of a say in University issues that could affect local residents.

"This is a common gripe in the community," Gish says. "The University does what it wants."

Despite their different stances, Gish says, "if we met today on Court Street, he would go out of his way to say hello to me, and I would go out of my way to say hello to him."

Chris Knisely, MA '99, who is active with local neighborhood associations, says Glidden was instrumental in helping the groups open a dialogue with the Ohio University Board of Trustees in 2000.

"We hope that part of President Glidden's legacy," she says, "will be that his successor and the University trustees will work together with the community to address challenges posed by University growth, building on this initial step."

NEXT: Trying times for the support of higher education.


Mary Alice Casey is editor and Joan Slattery Wall is assistant editor of Ohio Today.

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