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Saturday, Aug 17, 2019

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Dr. David Descutner, interim president

Dr. David Descutner

Photo courtesy of: University Communications and Marketing

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Meet Interim President Dr. David Descutner

Longtime faculty member assumed new duties on Feb. 18


On Jan. 20, the Ohio University Board of Trustees today appointed Dr. David Descutner as interim president of the University, effective Feb. 18, 2017.

In his first week as president, he sat down and answered a few questions for Compass. Find more about him here:


What are your most important goals as interim president?

My goal is to keep the university running as smoothly and effectively, to consult with groups and individuals on campus and on the regional campuses to get their thoughts about the university, and to make sure that President-elect Nellis is fully prepared to step in as President without missing a beat.

How has your career prepared you for this opportunity?

I was fortunate to be enculturated into an ethic of university service as a young faculty member in the School of Communication Studies, and that included being willing to serve on departmental, college, and university committees and to serve on Faculty Senate. I learned a great deal from those experiences and so was ready to be a dean and executive vice provost. Those early experiences also made me disposed to take on the many interim responsibilities I did during my 13 years as a dean.

Did you ever believe you would be a college president?

Never believed I would be a college president and never applied to be one.  Since 2007, I was recruited regularly for provostships and presidencies as most university leaders are. I did not seek out those opportunities because I really love working at Ohio University and living in Athens, as does my wife Lysa Burnier.

What are the biggest challenges in this job?

Biggest challenges are getting up to speed on all of the university’s key initiatives, managing the workload and travel, and getting used to operating at a different level.

What are you most looking forward to in this position?

What I most look forward to is representing the university I love as its president. Attending the Distinguished Professors reception last Monday and representing Ohio University last Tuesday at the National Academy of Engineers where we awarded the Russ Prize, which is the premier national prize for engineering, were both such wonderful evenings. This week, I will be in New York with the College of Fine Arts and the Alumni Association, which will be great fun.

What are your career plans after this position ends?

My career plans are to return to the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine to continue my work there. I have so enjoyed working in HCOM and getting to know the incredibly talented faculty and staff and the outstanding students.

What do you want people to know about you?

What I want people to know is that I am eager to talk with as many people as possible about their experiences at Ohio University and about their recommendations for our new president.

What do you want people to remember about you after this position ends?

What I want people to remember that I was really honored to serve the university and that I did my best.


What does your wife do?

My wife is Lysa Burnier, who is an Ohio University professor in political science. She was the first ever Presidential Teacher and has been recognized for her teaching within her college and as a University Professor, and for her research, most recently when she received a national award in her discipline for her career achievements as a scholar in gender studies and for her work as mentor.

What is your hometown and where do you live now?

My hometown is Midland, Pennsylvania, and Lysa and I now live in Athens.

What was the last good book you read, film you saw or album you heard?

Last great book was Jesmyn Ward’s “Men We Reaped;” my last great film was “Moonlight;” last great record/cd was Dizzy Gillespie’s “Concert of the Century.”

If you weren’t a professor, what career would you have pursued?

I probably would have been a steelworker had I not gone to college. If I had not pursued graduate degrees, I would have done work in labor unions.

What things in life are the most important to you?

Most important to me are Lysa and family and personal friends.

Where is your favorite vacation destination?

I love vacationing in national parks, Lewes, Delaware, and Fernandina Beach, Florida.

What are your hobbies?

Reading, listening to music, watching live music, fishing, hiking, bird-watching, and archery hunting.

What is something that most people don’t know about you?

Most people don’t know that I love reptiles and amphibians, especially snakes.

What are your favorite Athens hangouts?

I don’t hang out that much anymore, having turned 64, but the Union Bar and Grill and Jackie O’s are still special to me. Lysa and I love Purple Chopstix.

What is the next big event you can't wait for?

Spending spring break in Florida. I can’t wait.

What is your favorite saying or quote?

“An excess of virtue is a vice.”