Pounds: Leading ladiesWritten by Tom Pounds | President / Publisher | firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week, the Toledo Free Press staff was knee-deep in 10 years’ worth of old papers, getting our anniversary issue ready to print. Thank you for all the kind words and well-wishes this past week on our milestone!
I’m a bit late, but I wanted to take the time to say congratulations and welcome to the University of Toledo’s new president, Sharon Gaber.
Gaber, 51, was announced March 12 as the search committee’s unanimous choice and has the distinction of being UT’s first female president.
Currently provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Arkansas, Gaber has repeatedly pointed to her urban planning background as a strength that sets her apart. The field is a synergy of many disciplines, an approach that considers the whole greater than the sum of its parts. That could be a great mindset with which to approach UT.
Collaboration, communication and community are three buzzwords Gaber seems to favor. That’s promising.
“I am about community,” she said during a community forum last month. “That’s what excited me about my discipline. That’s what excites me about this opportunity.”
Leadership means being a doer, she told UT’s Independent Collegian: “Anybody can come in and say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do.’ Well, you want people that are working alongside you. You want them bought into the concept.”
Sounds a lot like the attitude of another local leading lady, Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson — Toledo’s first black female mayor — who chose a North Toledo neighborhood pool this week to announce her plans to run for mayor this November.
Hicks-Hudson also takes a greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts approach to governance, commenting that “livable, workable, safe, strong neighborhoods” are building blocks that create “livable, workable, safe, strong cities.”
Also during her visit last month, Gaber said she is impressed by UT’s comprehensive programs, which uniquely situate the school, and by extension the city, to attract students from “across the street, across the state and across the globe.” She wants to work to connect the university more with its namesake city.
“All the pieces for our continued success are right here,” she said.
That’s what Toledo’s late Mayor D. Michael Collins believed with his “You Will Do Better in Toledo” mantra. It’s a mindset Hicks-Hudson also champions.
Gaber has admitted she’s just begun to scratch the surface at UT and intends to be active, visible and involved in the community. That’s key. Boots on the ground is the only way to truly get to know a community.
As they move forward in their new roles, hopefully both these leaders can continue to think independently and avoid becoming beholden to any institution, media entity or self-serving string-puller of any ilk. TFP columnists in the past have been critical of former UT president Lloyd Jacobs and his ties to Blade President and General Manager Joe Zerbey, who serves as president of the university’s board and who was chair of this presidential search committee.
Both Gaber and Hicks-Hudson strike me as independent and self-assured so I’m cautiously optimistic. In the meantime, join me in welcoming Gaber to UT and wishing Hicks-Hudson well as she continues her unexpected journey.
Thomas F. Pounds is president and publisher of Toledo Free Press.