Sharon Gaber , 51, bested a field of 29 applicants to become the 17th presidnet of the University of Toledo. Contract details are in the hands of the board.
Sharon Gaber, the University of Arkansas provost who pledged to use her urban planning background to connect the University of Toledo with its city namesake, was picked Thursday to be the next UT president.
The Razorbacks-to-Rockets move makes her the university’s 17th president. She was approved in a unanimous vote by the university’s Board of Trustees.
Ms. Gaber, 51, bested and outlasted a field of 29 applicants. A search committee narrowed the list to three finalists, one of whom withdrew his candidacy earlier this week.
Ms. Gaber, who was presented during a news conference immediately following the vote, said it was “a tremendous opportunity to join the University of Toledo.” She expressed eagerness to better know students, faculty, and staff and to learn about the school’s traditions and culture.
“I am honored to serve as the University of Toledo’s 17th president,” she said. “Thank you, and go Rockets.”
When the board emerged shortly after noon on Thursday from an executive session lasting about 10 minutes, board chairman Joseph H. Zerbey IV told the media “no votes were taken” in the closed door portion of the meeting. With no motions for discussion preceding it, the board voted unanimously to appoint Ms. Gaber to the position. They then immediately transitioned to a news conference, which was streamed live by the university.
The university appeared thoroughly prepared for Ms. Gaber’s big moment. A second floor lobby of the Driscoll Alumni Center adjacent to where the board met was set up with a lectern, as well as a backdrop and flags with university insignia. She was presented with a Rockets jersey emblazoned with her name on the back. The university on Wednesday sent an email previewing an “important announcement” that would follow the board meeting in executive session.
Mr. Zerbey is also The Blade’s president and general manager. After finalist Christopher Howard on Monday withdrew himself from consideration, Mr. Zerbey said, he surmised that Ms. Gaber would be the candidate and “asked her to stand by.”
Ms. Gaber said she arrived in Toledo on Wednesday night. Mr. Zerbey said he did not know who made the call to ask her to fly to Toledo. He said nothing was final until the vote, and that any member of the board could have asked for more time to discuss, but added that he had a “gut feeling” and wanted to move the process along as quickly and judiciously as possible.
Mr. Zerbey called it a “historic moment,” telling the media she will “hit the ground running” as the next president.
“To emerge from such a strong pool of candidates and finalists, it speaks volumes about the caliber of leader that the board has selected in the person of Sharon Gaber,” he said, touting her accomplishments increasing enrollment, diversity, and research funding at the University of Arkansas.
Mr. Zerbey said Ms. Gaber received a draft copy of a “term sheet” after the public vote, but no contract had been signed or negotiated.
Also present at the announcement were Interim President Nagi Naganathan and former president Lloyd Jacobs.
“This is indeed a very special moment for the university as we get ready to introduce our new president,” Mr. Naganathan said. “I want to thank our students, our faculty, staff, and our trustees for the caring engagement in the selection process.”
Mr. Naganathan said he has spoken with Ms. Gaber and knows she shares the passion for education that exists at UT. Mr. Zerbey thanked Mr. Naganathan for his service as interim president and said he looks forward to Mr. Naganathan’s “continued contributions to this great university.”
Mr. Naganathan said he will return as dean of UT’s college of engineering, but will stay on as interim president as long as he is needed.
In his conversations with Ms. Gaber, Mr. Naganathan said he told her there are many at the university, including himself, who will support her in the transition.
Ms. Gaber said contract details are in the hands of the board. But if the two sides agree to terms, Ms. Gaber said she expects to start in late June or early July.
The trustees in July approved paying Mr. Naganathan $392,7000 a year while he served as interim president. That’s the same annual salary the trustees agreed in June to pay Dr. Jacobs for each of the next three years, along with a lump-sum payment of $150,000, under an amended contract.
University of Toledo Board of Trustees Chairman Joseph H. Zerbey IV presents a personalized Rockets jersey to Sharon Gaber after introducing her as the new UT president, following a trustees meeting on Thursday.
She garnered support from many members of the faculty senate, won the endorsement of the student newspaper, and was the finalist who most impressed UT faculty, staff, students, administrators, and others who completed online presidential search questionnaires.
In public forums held during the interview process, Ms. Gaber pointed to specific initiatives she shepherded at Arkansas and touted her fund-raising work, student recruitment efforts, and promotion of faculty research and athletics.
Ms. Gaber received a bachelor’s degree in economics and urban studies from Occidental College, a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Southern California, and a doctorate in city and regional planning from Cornell University.
At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she took on her first academic leadership posts, Ms. Gaber served as the community and regional planning department chairman and worked as an associate to the vice chancellor for research, among other roles. Her next stop, at Auburn University, included stints as an associate dean and professor in the college of architecture and interim provost and vice president for academic affairs.
In 2009, she became the Arkansas provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.
Two other finalists visited campus last month for a series of multiday interviews.
Michele Wheatly, 58, the former West Virginia University provost, remained in contention, while Christopher Howard, 46, president of the private Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, dropped out Monday after trustees met for the first time to deliberate the hiring decision. Mr. Howard said he withdrew after “significant thought and discussions” with his family and those at his current college, but he did not elaborate on his decision.
The board vote took place while students are on spring break.
The presidential vacancy was created by the June 30 departure of Dr. Jacobs, who left before his contract ended. Dr. Jacobs, president of the former Medical College of Ohio, was named UT president in 2006 when the two institutions merged.
As UT searched for a new president, Mr. Naganathan has served as interim president.
He applied for the presidency but was not selected as a finalist.
Ms. Gaber’s candidacy was cheered by several female faculty members as the first female UT president.
‘‘I have to say, for women in education, sometimes you are the first,” Ms. Gaber said after the announcement. “I think it’s great. What it does is, we know there are more female students going to college than there are male students, so the idea you can be a positive role model is a fantastic thing.”
Female presidents lead four of the 14 public universities in the university system of Ohio: Central State University, Kent State University, Shawnee State University, and Bowling Green State University.
Ms. Gaber has two children in college — one at the University of Arkansas and the other at the University of Central Oklahoma — and a third child in high school.
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