Ball State’s newest president is getting a head start on his job today by meeting with the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, though he won’t take office until Aug. 1.

Paul W. Ferguson, president at the  University of Maine, was named the 15th president of Ball State on Thursday.

“We are coming to join your family,” he said at the announcement. “Our house is your house. It is our commitment to preserve the incredible legacy of Ball State University.”

He will earn a salary of $450,000, said Joan Todd, a university spokesperson. This is $180,000 more than his current job. Current President Jo Ann Gora made a base salary of $446,338 for her last year.

Until he takes office, Provost Terry King will serve as university interim president after Gora retires June 30.

Today, Ferguson will meet with  ICHE as the committee begins working on a new budget. This may be helpful for him, as he leaves the University of Maine, a school of about 8,800 undergraduate students, at a financially troublesome time. The school’s trustees approved a cut of 157 jobs over the seven-campus system and a plan to pull $11.4 million from the reserve funds, according to Bangor Daily News. This is not expected to fix the budget’s shortfall, and the school faces projected budget deficits of $46 million in the next year.

Ferguson worked to create the flagship university’s master plan,  Blue Sky Plan. This looks to create a pragmatic framework to become fiscally responsible through 2017.

Although he faces difficulties, it doesn’t affect his leadership, said Judy Ryan, University of Maine vice president for administration and finance.

“He is really one of the best leaders that I have ever worked with, and you all are blessed to get him,” she said. “He has really set us on a great foundation.”

At the Ball State announcement, Ferguson spoke about wanting to work on balancing academics and research, optimizing the university’s health sciences and faculty and staff development as well as continuing Ball State’s legacy of immersive learning.

“I am so impressed with the immersive learning concept,” he said. “I really do want to see how we can be the national model for [immersive learning].”

He also mentioned he was committed to bridging the town-and-gown divide. Mayor Dennis Tyler said he looks forward to discussing projects with Ferguson.

“[Paul Ferguson] made a commitment to continue that quality of place for the city,” Tyler said. “That makes me feel very good.”

Ferguson began his academic career as an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology and has served as an administrator at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Rick Hall, chair of the Board of Trustees, said it was Ferguson’s experience that stood out to the board when the trustees made the decision.

“Being the sitting president of the flagship university in another state, he understands the job and has strong views on how we can improve and hit the ground running,” Hall said.

Jeffrey Hecker, University of Maine provost, said he thinks Paul Ferguson will begin working hard as president on his first day, much like he did when he took over at in Maine on July 1, 2011.

At the announcement, Ferguson said Ball State draws attention from academic leaders all over the United States. This public attention is a focus that Melanie Turner, undersecretary for the University Senate, said she hopes Ferguson will keep.

“We have such a great momentum, and I just hope we can keep it going,” she said.

Ferguson said the most important thing for students and faculty to know is that he is coming to Ball State to join the family.

Alan Hovorka contributed to this story.

Related articles: