Ohio University

skip to main content



Dr. Duane Nellis named 21st president of Ohio University

February 22, 2017

My Fellow Bobcats,

EXCITING NEWS – We have a new president!

A few moments ago, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to name Dr. Duane Nellis Ohio University’s 21st president. His wife, Ruthie, will become our next First Lady. Dr. Nellis eagerly accepted the appointment and we are currently in the process of finalizing the terms of his contract. His first official day as president of Ohio University will be July 1, 2017; he and Mrs. Nellis could not be more excited to continue the work moving Ohio University forward in our third century.

What began as a daunting undertaking in June of last year to somehow replace the irreplaceable Dr. Roderick J. McDavis, has now successfully concluded with the attainment of an exemplary candidate. While we were fortunate to have four strong finalists, Dr. Nellis truly impressed all of us. Based on the feedback we received from the University community, it was apparent he also impressed many others. The involvement, interest and passion of our community was overwhelming and greatly appreciated throughout the search process.

I cannot thank the community enough for their support and advice the previous few months. The Search Committee brought us a wonderful slate of candidates; the public forums were civil, constructive, and insightful; and the comments we received were thoughtful and discerning. We have strived to conduct a transparent and inclusive search. The Board’s historic vote today marks the successful completion of a process that has brought students, faculty, staff, community members and alumni closer together.

It is expected that Dr. Nellis will return to Ohio in March for the Board of Trustees meeting in Athens. More details on that visit will come later. In the meantime, Dr. Nellis will be in constant communication with Interim President David Descutner, the Board of Trustees and various members of the administration and faculty to ensure a smooth transition.

This is a very exciting day for all of us! Thank you for your support.



David A. Wolfort (Class of 1974)
Chair, Ohio University Board of Trustees
Chair, OHIO Presidential Search Committee


Fellow Ohio University Bobcats:

February 8, 2017

I write this morning with some very exciting news. The Ohio University Board of Trustees will meet at 10 a.m. on February 22, 2017 at the DIEC Building at our Dublin campus to vote on the appointment of Ohio University’s 21st President. 

A live web stream of the Board announcement will be provided for those interested but unable to attend.

For additional information regarding the search for Ohio University’s next president, I encourage you to visit www.ohio.edu/presidential-search.

This is an exciting time for Ohio University, and I look forward to entering the final phases of this historical journey with each of you.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to thank each of you for your active engagement throughout the search process. We are confident that our 21st President will be an engaging, dynamic leader, and we are enthusiastic about the opportunity ahead of us as we begin this transition.   

Your Fellow Bobcat,


David A. Wolfort (Class of 1974)
Chair, Ohio University Board of Trustees


Ohio University Board of Trustees Appoints Dr. David Descutner Interim President

January 20, 2017

The Ohio University Board of Trustees appointed Dr. David Descutner as interim president of the University, effective Feb. 18, 2017.

Before his retirement from OHIO in 2015, Dr. Descutner served as the dean of University College and executive vice provost for undergraduate education. A professor of communication studies, Dr. Descutner started his career with Ohio University as a member of the faculty in 1979. He was recognized numerous times for his teaching and mentoring, as well as for his advocacy on behalf of the regional campus faculty, and he served two terms on Faculty Senate.

“David Descutner is well-known and respected in many circles here at Ohio University and will make a great interim president,” Board of Trustees Chairman David Wolfort said. “The Board is confident that Dr. Descutner will transition into this new role effortlessly and provide stability to the institution as we finalize our search for our 21st president. We are thankful for his continued commitment to Ohio University.”

As dean of University College, Descutner worked with Student Affairs, the Registrar’s Office, Enrollment Management, University Libraries and Student Senate, among others, to help Ohio University receive military-friendly school designation and to establish the James Abraham and Arlene Greenfield Veterans and Military Student Services Center. He managed the undergraduate learning part of the 1804 Fund, and he also collaborated with The Ohio University Foundation to launch the Konneker Fund for Learning and Discovery in 2012.

Descutner also served as chair of the Vision OHIO Steering Committee, and from 2012-14 was the interim vice provost for diversity and inclusion. He partnered with University Libraries to establish the Ohio Fellows Program in 2012.

“I am honored to serve as interim president of Ohio University,” said Descutner. “I have been proud to be a member of the University community since I taught my first classroom full of students in 1979, and I do not take this role lightly. I am committed to providing stability and leadership as we continue through this transitional phase toward the end of selecting our 21st president.”

During his time at OHIO, Descutner also served in the School of Communication Studies as director of studies for the Honors Tutorial College, as director of the undergraduate program, as director of the graduate program, and as interim director of the school. He was responsible for first-year experience programs and academic support programs, including Bobcat Student Orientation, the Learning Communities Program, the Academic Advancement Center, the Allen Student Help Center, Student Accessibility Services, as well as the Army and Air Force ROTC programs. He was the University’s representative to the Ohio Board of Regents on undergraduate issues from 2001-2015.

After retiring in 2015, he was named interim chair of the Department of Social Medicine in the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. He currently is the special assistant for faculty affairs and academic planning to the executive dean in the Heritage College.

Dr. Descutner and his spouse, Dr. DeLysa Burnier, a professor in Ohio University’s Department of Political Science since 1983, have been very active in philanthropic endeavors with Ohio University, the University of Illinois, Slippery Rock State University, and many local nonprofit entities. He is a member of the board for United Campus Ministry. He earned his bachelor's degree from Slippery Rock State University and his master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Illinois.

As announced to the University community on Dec. 9, 2016, the University’s 20th president, Dr. Roderick J. McDavis, has accepted a position as managing principal and chief executive officer of AGB Search effective March 1, 2017. His final day at Ohio University will be Feb. 17, 2017.


Chair Wolfort Announces Four Finalists for OHIO’s 21st President

January 5, 2017

In an emailed message to the University community, Board of Trustees Chair David Wolfort announced the selection of four finalists by the presidential search committee:

Dr. Duane Nellis

Dr. Dean Bresciani

Dr. Robert Frank

Dr. Pam Benoit

The Ohio University community will be able to meet with the four finalists during a series of Open Forums. The forums will be open to the public and allow time for participants to ask questions of the finalists. The finalists will each spend time on campus, meeting with faculty, staff and student representatives, senior university leaders and the Board of Trustees.

Throughout the presidential search process, the Ohio University Board of Trustees has provided many opportunities for faculty, staff, students and members of the public to offer input and insights. The Open Forums with the finalists will be the last opportunities the public has to meet with the candidates prior to the Board’s selection.


Who : Dr. Duane Nellis, Texas Tech University

When : Tuesday, January 10, 2017 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Where : Baker University Center Ballroom


Who : Dr. Dean Bresciani, North Dakota State University

When : Thursday, January 12, 2017 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Where : Baker University Center Ballroom


Who : Dr. Robert Frank, University of New Mexico

When : Friday, January 13, 2017 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Where : Baker University Center Ballroom


Who : Dr. Pam Benoit, Ohio University

When : Tuesday, January 17, 2017 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Where : Baker University Center Ballroom



A live web stream of the Open Forums will be provided for those interested but unable to attend. The live stream will only be accessible to individuals with a valid Ohio University ID.

Your feedback is important. Anyone who is not able to attend the Open Forum can send their thoughts on the presidential search to trustees@ohio.edu or by calling Dr. David Moore, Secretary to the Board of Trustees, directly at 740-593-2958.



Search Committee Recommends Candidates to Search Firm

December 15, 2016

The Presidential Search Committee, comprised of faculty, staff, students and members of the Board of Trustees, has reviewed the qualifications of a number of higher education professionals and has recommended several for further consideration to be the 21st President of Ohio University. Witt Kieffer, our search firm, is now communicating with those individuals to determine whether they wish to continue in the search.

In the meantime, we are making arrangements for visits to Athens by the finalist candidates in January. During these visits, the finalists will meet with representative groups on campus and each will participate in a public forum. Details regarding the candidates and the scheduling and format of these events will be provided as that information becomes available. After the campus visits, the Board of Trustees will make a final hiring decision.



Interim President to be named in January

December 14, 2016

On Friday, December 9th, Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis and Board of Trustees Chair David Wolfort issued a joint message to the University community. In the message, President McDavis announced that he has formally accepted the position of Managing Principal and Chief Executive Officer at AGB Search and his final day at Ohio University will be February 17, 2017. Dr. McDavis acknowledged that this opportunity came forward faster than he had expected and he and Deborah did not feel it was a position he could turn down.

Chair Wolfort expressed his congratulations and appreciation to both Dr. and Mrs. McDavis for their many years of service and commitment to Ohio University. He said the Board of Trustees was well prepared for this development since President McDavis had kept them informed of his employment situation in recent months. Chair Wolfort said he does not foresee any changes in the search timetable for OHIO’s 21st president as a result of this development.

The Board of Trustees will name an interim president at the January 20th meeting.



Thank You

September 8, 2016

Thank you to everyone who attended our recent Open Forum and to those of you who emailed your feedback! The search team appreciates the constructive comments regarding the goals of our university and the desired qualities of its next leader. We are currently using the input we have collected to develop a position description for your next president. If you would still like to submit an opinion, email the presidential search committee at trustees@ohio.edu. We welcome all input!

The excitement surrounding this search is widespread – students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the Athens community are following the progress and eager to hear about the next development; we will be sure to keep you informed.

Your passion for this institution is encouraging and it is driving the search committee’s work. We all aspire to find the best possible fit for this institution and will continue to encourage thoughtful dialogue on the subject.

Thank you,


David A. Wolfort (Class of 1974)
Chair, Presidential Search Committee
Chair, Ohio University Board of Trustees



Presidential Search Committee Chair Requests Local Feedback

August 18, 2016

As the search for Ohio University’s next president enters its second phase, Search Committee Chair David Wolfort requests the public’s help. The Board of Trustees will be holding an Open Forum on Tuesday, August 30 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Baker Center Theater. During the public forum, attendees will be given an opportunity to voice their thoughts regarding the qualities and experiences the next president should possess (attendees are asked to limit their comments to two minutes to leave time for all to comment).

Representatives from the executive search firm hired to assist in the search for Ohio University’s 21st president, will be on hand as well as members of the presidential search committee. Feedback gathered at the Open Forum will be used to help generate the position description. Current president Roderick J. McDavis plans to step down from his position June 30, 2017.

Anyone who is not able to attend the Open Forum can send their thoughts on the presidential search to trustees@ohio.edu.



Trustees announce presidential search committee, launch website

June 24, 2016

Today the Board of Trustees announced the names of the  21-person search committee  charged with finding Ohio University’s 21st president. The presidential search committee will thoroughly review potential candidates and select a small set of well-qualified individuals for the Board’s consideration. Additionally, the Board announced that search firm  Witt Kieffer  has been selected to assist the search committee.

The search committee members were recommended to the Board by the search subcommittee following its open meeting June 7 in Dublin, Ohio. The search subcommittee is comprised of five trustees who were appointed at the March Board meeting. Prior to selecting the members, the subcommittee consulted with faculty, students, staff, regional campus representatives, Athens community members, alumni, administrators, and all university senate leadership representatives. The Board was focused on appointing a search committee that reflects our diverse community of faculty, staff, students and alumni.

The search committee will recommend candidates to the Board, which will then determine which finalists to invite to visit campus. During these campus visits, open forums with the finalists will be part of the on-campus vetting process and members of the university community will be invited and encouraged to attend.

The Board of Trustees also announced the formation of a  presidential search website  which will be frequently updated as the process progresses.

Current President Roderick J. McDavis announced in March that he will step down at the end of his contract June 30, 2017.