Paul W. Ferguson, president at the University of Maine, was named the 15th president of Ball State today, pledging to continue the legacy of immersive learning and to improve the balance between teaching and research.

"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, when he takes office Aug. 1. Provost Terry King will serve as university interim president after current President Jo Ann Gora retires June 30.

Ferguson spoke about wanting to work on balancing academics and research, optimizing the university's health sciences and faculty and staff development.

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.

"I had the opportunity to talk to him a few afterwards privately and his assurances to me was that he wanted to work together to continue a legacy of cooperation between the community and the university," Tyler said.

Ferguson has led the University of Maine since July 1, 2011. The school has an undergraduate enrollment of about 8,800 students. He earned $270,000 annually, according to the university.

He leaves the university at a financially troublesome time. The University of Maine's Board of Trustees approved a cut of 157 jobs 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.

Ball State's Board of Trustees announced the new president at a public meeting 1 p.m. in Sursa Hall. Wayne Estopinal, a trustee on the presidential search committee, spoke before the announcement about the search process and to thank the committee members.

"We wanted to hire someone who is evolutionary, not revolutionary," Rick Hall, chair of the board, said.

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. 

Check out a photo gallery of Ferguson's announcement and a meet and greet.

FERGUSON'S CAREER

The new president graduated from Whittier College in 1974 with a Bachelor of Arts in biology and later received a Ph.D. in pharmacology and toxicology in 1981 at the University of California, Davis. Ferguson, 61, was born in Hollywood and played intercollegiate tennis.

Ferguson has taught as an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology and served as head of the Division of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Louisiana, Monroe. There, he served as vice provost from 1995 to 1999.

In 1999, Ferguson moved to University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to work as a professor of toxicology and served as dean of the Graduate College. By 2001, Ferguson became senior vice provost and eventually vice president for Research and Graduate Studies in 2003 until 2006.

He then became provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville while also teaching as professor of pharmacology and toxicology. 

PREVIOUSLY

Gora served Ball State for 10 years.

In late October, Gora announced her plan to retire in June, ending her presidency. The search began Nov. 1 when Ball State sent out a request for a search firm. 

The process has been closed, meaning names of the candidates have not been released. Instead, a committee that included Kyle Pierce, student member of the Board of Trustees, decided on the candidates.

During her time as president, Gora oversaw two strategic plans — Education Redefined and Education Redefined 2.0 — the 10-year reaccreditation and more than $520 million of facilities construction and renovation.

In a press conference Oct. 28, 2013, Hughes said this is a good time professionally for Gora to leave as “everything is in wonderful shape.”

The Education Redefined 2.0 strategic plan is set through 2017, the second phase of the geothermal project is underway and a campus-wide physical master plan is in the works.

“As my husband likes to say, ‘It’s better to leave one year early than one day late,’” Gora said. “Hopefully, I am leaving early and not late.”

Her last day is June 30, despite her contract ending in the 2016-17 academic year.

Emma Kate Fittes and Alan Hovorka contributed to this article.


See photos from the announcement at Sursa Hall and the following meet and greet