Community leaders were surprised to hear that Ball State President Jo Ann Gora announced her plans to retire in June 2014.
Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler said he worked with Gora for six years in the Indiana General Assembly and for two years as mayor.
“It’s been a pleasure working with her to try and move our community and university closer together and help them both become much stronger because of that,” Tyler said.
Tyler said he is not sure what Gora will do next or what drove her decision.
“What she told me is that she thought it was time,” he said. “That she had been in that type of setting for a number of years, and she thought it was time to move on.”
Tyler said Gora focused on pairing the administration and Building Better Communities programs with the community. He said he would like to see this continue with Gora’s successor.
“I would like to see somebody who can continue to move the university setting closer to the Muncie community,” he said. “They create a better quality of life and quality of place, and that was one of the things I know that Jo Ann was very passionate about. It was something that she asked for the Board of Trustees and the university to be supportive of. I hope whoever follows Jo Ann into that position will be just that passionate about those types of opportunities.”
Terry Bailey, director of Community Development for Muncie, said she wasn’t expecting Gora to leave the university so soon.
“She’s not ready to just stop and sit,” Bailey said. “She’s got a lot of life ahead of her.”
Bailey said Gora’s time with the university built on the work of previous presidents, but her ability to connect with the Muncie community set her apart.
“She really connected the university to the community,” she said. “She raised the bar for development. People were seeing that things were happening and changing and they jumped on board with the university.”
Bailey said Gora put the university in a good position for whoever will succeed her.
“There are going be things that change, but there will be people that will take the things that she started and move them to the next level, just like she was able to move things to the next level from previous administration,” she said.
Gora became the first woman to serve as a president of a public university in Indiana when she became the 14th president of Ball State in May 2004.
Jay Julian, president and CEO at Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce, said Ball State has changed and has a different feeling than when Gora first started.
“The campus has grown aesthetically and physically,” he said. “More importantly, the environment has changed — she has changed the culture. The quality of the Ball State student is improving.”
Hollis Hughes, Board of Trustees president, said the board hopes to have the next university leader in place by July.