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Published: Friday, 6/30/2006

A silver lining, of sorts

PERHAPS this is what qualifies as a silver lining as eight years of Bob Taft s stewardship of state government wind down: He has made his final appointment to the University of Toledo board of trustees.

Unless there is an unexpected resignation from the board during the remaining months of Mr. Taft s second term as governor, his appointment of local banker John Szuch is the last one he gets, and for that, the university, the community, and the state should be grateful.

A pattern of mediocre appointments to the UT board, begun during the administration of former Gov. George Voinovich, was perpetuated by Governor Taft as if it was a GOP family tradition.

We do not disparage Mr. Szuch s credentials here he is chairman of Fifth Third Bank of Northwest Ohio, a major financial player and civic-minded institution. We hope he proves to be a fine addition over the course of his nine-year term.

His appointment is especially significant because he is the first appointee to the newly merged boards of UT and the Medical University of Ohio, a merger that will become effective on Saturday.

In fact, Mr. Szuch is replacing two people. Terms of the merger require that two board members, one from the MUO board and one from the UT board, leave each year until the merged board is reduced to the requisite nine members.

The departing MUO trustee is Charles Dana; leaving the UT board is Dan Brennan. To the extent that Mr. Szuch is replacing Mr. Brennan, his arrival should be warmly welcomed.

We d call Mr. Brennan the poster child for mediocre appointments to the UT board by both governors, but it would be a crowded poster. Over the years of Republican control of the governor s office, too many of these seats have gone to individuals whose financial support and party connections were overriding factors.

We still remember the tenure of former board members James Tuschman and the late Ron Langenderfer. Their enduring legacy was the presidency of Vik Kapoor, a 17-month disaster that destroyed morale at UT and cost it the services of numerous excellent administrators and faculty members.

Mr. Tuschman s reward for his role in all of that: He was elevated by Governor Taft to the Ohio Board of Regents. Several years earlier, Tom Noe also got a Regents appointment from Governor Voinovich.

What better example could be cited for handing out prestigious appointments to those who ve been financially generous?

The election of a new governor this fall comes at the best possible time for the new and hopefully improved University of Toledo. The future of the merged university-medical college is too important to entrust to those whose service is seen as a reward for past favors.

The next governor had better be prepared to look at things a little differently.

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