Ohio University names its next president, the first woman in its history

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — The Ohio University Board of Trustees unanimously appointed Dr. Lori Stewart Gonzalez as the university’s next president. Stewart Gonzalez, currently executive vice president and provost of the University of Louisville, will be Ohio University’s 23rd president and its first female president.

Stewart Gonzalez is a native of Mount Vernon, Kentucky, located an hour south of the state capital of Lexington, and a graduate of the University of Kentucky. After a four-year stint at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Stewart Gonzalez returned to her alma mater, eventually rising to the position of dean of the College of Health Sciences.

Lori Stewart Gonzalez

Stewart Gonzalez was one of two finalists for the position, along with Avinandan “Avi” Mukherjee, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.

Stewart Gonzalez will be replacing interim President Hugh Sherman in July. Sherman, who became president of the university in June 2021, has been serving out the remainder of Duane Nellis’ term. Nellis stepped down four years into his six-year contract as the university struggled with declining enrollment and a worsening financial picture.

Sherman’s term saw record freshmen enrollment in fall 2022. Other significant achievements made by the university during Sherman’s term included being designated as a top-tier school for research and development in the latest Carnegie Classification and receiving a $3 million grant from Intel to help create a workforce development and training program for the semiconductor industry.

Public universities are facing formidable challenges, including a declining number of high school students going on to college and soaring tuition costs that have some young people and their parents questioning whether a college degree is worth the investment.

“It is an inflection point and we need to make sure that we have exactly the right leader,” said Ohio University Board Chair Peggy Viehwegger. “And that’s what we think we have after this process.”

President-Elect Stewart Gonzalez listed three primary goals she has for the university, the first two being student success and financial stability.

“I’ve spent a lot of time focused on student success, which is retention and persistence,” Stewart Gonzalez said. “With financial stability, I want to get in deep in the budget and see where we are, see what things we want to add and also what we don’t want to do anymore.”

Stewart Gonzalez’s third goal is to take care of what she views as “the core resource” of Ohio University: its people.

“When you take care of your faculty and staff and your students, you make sure that people are recognized and rewarded for good work,” she said.

Stewart Gonzalez says she will go to great lengths to connect with both students and faculty by not only attending events, but also interacting with them on an individual basis.

“You just get out with the students, because then you can find out not just what their major is or where their hometown is, but what their passion is and what sparks them, because they’re the future,” she said. “I want to go into a restaurant where they say, ‘Hey Lori,’ because they know who I am because I’ve been there enough to get to know them.”