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Published: Friday, 1/9/2009

The right choice at BGSU

PROVING that the grass is not always greener in the other fellow's yard, Bowling Green State University removed the interim from President Carol Cartwright's title, naming her to lead the university through 2011.

It was a prudent decision, and one that BGSU likely will not regret.

The 67-year-old educator becomes BGSU's 10th (and first woman) president, replacing longtime BGSU president Sidney Ribeau, who left to accept the presidency of Howard University in Washington.

When Ms. Cartwright took the top job at Kent State University in 1991, she was the first woman to be named president of any state university in Ohio. She held that post until 2006.

But it was the work she did at KSU, not her trailblazer status, that impresses. During her tenure, KSU's enrollment grew, much of the campus was refurbished, and the college completed a $100 million fund-raising campaign. Her management skills in these areas will be put to good use as BGSU faces the prospect of shrinking state support and works to reverse two years of declining enrollment.

Ms. Cartwright, affectionately known among students as "C squared" during her years at KSU, was an active member of the Kent community, working to foster better town-gown relations and even serving one year as honorary chairman of the Portage County United Way.

Her 15 years at Kent also amply demonstrated that the diminutive Ms. Cartwright is both well-versed in Ohio's higher education system and more than capable of playing with the big boys at the state level.

University presidents do not come cheaply these days, so it is no surprise that Ms. Cartwright will command a salary of $375,000, a significant bump from Mr. Ribeau's nearly $314,000 salary during his last year at the helm of the university.

But we have no doubt that the energetic Ms. Cartwright will earn every penny. In fact, she looks like a bargain compared to Ohio State University President Gordon Gee's projected $2 million salary for the coming year (not to mention his $473,000 entertainment budget during his first year leading Ohio's flagship university).

Ms. Cartwright told the Record Courier newspaper in Kent that she initially resisted the advances of the BGSU board.

What changed her mind, she said was the seriousness of the economic challenges facing the university and the recent resignation of BGSU Provost Shirley Baugher.

"The concern was the serious nature of the economy, its effect on the state, and then the impact on higher education and feeling the need to have somebody with a great deal of experience at the helm during what our board chair described as 'very choppy waters,'•" she said.

BGSU's presidential search committee and board of trustees had the vision to recognize that Ms. Cartwright possessed the very traits they were looking for in a new president and the wit to act on that knowledge.

We do not believe that they will be disappointed.

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