At the end of Jo Ann Gora’s 10 years as president of Ball State, she will leave behind a focus on immersive learning, more than $520 million worth of construction and renovations and a renewed interest in athletics.
But mostly, Gora will leave behind big shoes to fill.
The goal for the 2008 Ball State Bold campaign was $200 million by 2011. During a recession, she helped the university exceed that goal by more than $10 million.
She has refused to allow legislators to dictate what is best for the university, instead telling them what the university needs and using immersive learning projects as methods of giving back to and benefiting the community and state. She has fought against the performance-based funding formulas that reward STEM-focused and growing schools and routinely hurt Ball State’s state appropriations.
Ball State’s tuition rose 2 percent this year, the lowest increase since 1976, largely due to legislators granting almost $6.6 million because of the school’s immersive learning efforts.
Often, when alumni share their stories of Ball State, they talk about the crazy times and copious amounts of alcohol they had as students. During Gora’s time as president, the school’s party image has changed drastically. This year’s freshman class had the highest high school GPA and SAT scores in the university’s history.
Students often comment that Gora seems aloof or disconnected from the student body. One person on Twitter said, “Hopefully the next president puts the financial struggles of students into consideration.”
Yet, when Gora first became president, she gave 25 students scholarships in lieu of a formal inauguration. She has consistently worked with state legislators to keep tuition costs low.
As for her distance from the students, it is difficult to find a major event that Gora has not attended. From last year’s Beef ‘O’ Brady Bowl to Ball State Day at the Indiana State Fair to the line outside John R. Emens Auditorium waiting for tickets to see Oprah Winfrey and David Letterman, Gora has been present.
Winfrey came to Ball State because of a lecture series with Letterman, and it is under Gora’s presidency that Ball State’s relationship with the alumnus has grown. She is a major reason Letterman has a building named after him on campus, according to Daily News reports from 2007.
“The president always gets a lot of credit,” Gora said Monday. “One person doesn’t accomplish it all alone.”
But Gora truly did raise Ball State’s standards. Environmentally, academically and athletically, she has had her hand in cultivating the university.
We are not saying Gora is perfect. We are not saying no one is capable of replacing her.
However, we are saying that not just anyone can replace her.
The committee that selects a new president needs to do so thoughtfully and carefully. The committee needs to listen to each part of the Ball State community. But mostly, the next president needs to have drive and momentum to get what’s necessary done.
Like Gora does.