YSU narrows president list to 3 candidates

Former Youngstown State and Ohio State universities championship football coach Jim Tressel made the cut as one of the final three candidates for YSU’s next president.

The other two candidates on the list released by YSU Monday afternoon are Mary Cullinan, president and professor of English at Southern Oregon University, and Gary L. Miller, chancellor of University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Tressel, executive vice president for Student Success at the University of Akron, is also one of three finalists for president at the Akron school.

While Miller and Cullinan both hold doctorates in their respective fields, Tressel’s lack of a Ph.D. does not disqualify him as a candidate, YSU Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Sudershan Garg said.

“Nowadays, we look at traditional and non-traditional candidates,” he said. There were three such candidates in the original pool of 33, he said.

“Jim Tressel, everybody knows. He’s vice president of Student Success (at AU), and he has been a former football coach there and also a coach at Ohio State. We selected him because he has a lot of experience with students at AU,” Garg said.

Miller and Cullinan were selected for their experience in university leadership, he said.

The three candidates will come to YSU next week and visit with students, faculty, staff, union leaders and others. They will meet in open public forms for the University Community as follows: Tressel, 2 to 3 p.m. May 5; Miller, 2 to 3 p.m. May 6; and Cullinan, 2 to 3 p.m. May 7.

The board hopes to have a new president selected by late May.

Tressel’s name has been heard in a chorus of area politicians and officials voicing their support of him becoming YSU’s new president, including U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan and Trumbull County commissioners Frank Fuda, Paul Heltzel and Dan Polivka.

Fuda on Monday said he was glad to hear Tressel is among the three finalists.

“We need a local person. You won’t find anyone more dedicated … He’s a conscientious, hard-working and dedicated person in everything he does,” he said, adding that YSU needs someone who “wants to be there.”

“He was dedicated to Youngstown State when he coached football, dedicated to Ohio State when he coached football. He’s always been a great person for our area. He really is part of the community and that’s what we need here,” he said.

Fuda didn’t hesitate when asked about Tressel’s lack of a Ph.D.

“I’ve seen a lot of people with some great credentials, but that doesn’t make them the best person for the job. He has something better to offer. I don’t know the other people, but he would care for the university, care for the people who are involved. That goes a long way. I just hope that he does get the position,” he said.

Cullinan has a Ph.D. and M.A. in English literature, both from the University of Wisconsin, and a Bachelor of Arts in honors English from the University of Pennsylvania. Her previous roles span from lecturer, director, professor, chair and dean of California State universities, eventually leading her to her current position of president at SOU.

Miller has a Ph.D. in biological sciences from Mississippi State University, an Master of Arts and a Bachelor of Science, both from the College of William and Mary. His previous roles include numerous associate professor, instructor and chair positions at Mississippi State, Weber State and the University of Mississippi, dean at the University of Pacific, provost at Wichita State University, and his current position as chancellor of the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Tressel holds a master’s degree in education from UA and a bachelor’s in education from Baldwin-Wallace College.

He won four national championships as YSU’s head football coach from 1986 to 2000, the last six years of which he also served as director of athletics. He was head football coach for the Ohio State University for 10 years, winning a national championship, and currently serves as executive vice president for UA.

In his cover letter to YSU, Tressel said, “I feel prepared to assume the honor, privilege, and challenge of the presidency at Youngstown State University.” He also said the 15 years his family spent at YSU “were special” and that “without a question, the Valley holds a special place in our hearts.”

In his cover letter to Akron, Tressel asks the board to consider an interim presidency that will allow for the “transition to a new permanent leader to take place with the university is on more solid ground.”