TRANSCRIPT: Read Ball State's new president's first speech to university

Geoffrey S. Mearns answers questions from the media and audience members for the first time after being named 17th president of Ball State on Jan. 24 in Sursa Hall. Breanna Daugherty // DN
Geoffrey S. Mearns answers questions from the media and audience members for the first time after being named 17th president of Ball State on Jan. 24 in Sursa Hall. Breanna Daugherty // DN

Ball State announced on Jan. 24 that its 17th president will be Geoffrey S. Mearns. The university's new president is finishing his term at Northern Kentucky University, which ends July 31. He'll take office at Ball State starting Aug. 1. His starting salary at Ball State is $450,000. 

We've posted the entire transcript of his first speech to the university community below the archive of the announcement event. Following this transcript is a transcript of a special message Ball State posted on its YouTube channel. 

MEARNS: Well, good afternoon ladies and gentleman. Thank you so much for that very kind welcome.

It is truly an honor. It is an honor for me and my family to be selected as the 17th president of Ball State University. Mr. Momper, I want to thank you and thank you for that very generous introduction and I want to thank you and the other members of the search committee. Thank you for giving me this opportunity, this special opportunity.

I know from experience that you work hard and you have represented your university colleagues well and your community partners very well. And Mr. Hall I want to thank you and all of the other members of the Board of Trustees for giving me the privilege of serving this outstanding university. I look forward to working closely and collaboratively with you and all of the members of the university community to secure a bright and a bold future for Ball State.

During the search process, it became clear to me, very clear to me that all of you are proud, indeed, very proud of this university. The faculty are rightly proud of the quality education that they provide to the students and they’re proud of the impactful research that they contribute to their communities, and to our world.

This institution is widely respected for its innovative, nationally ranked programs and Ball State’s distinguished faculty are admired for their dedication to their students and to academic excellence. The staff are also rightly proud of the services they provide to the students and to their faculty and staff colleagues.

Your staff has also built and maintained excellent facilities like this hall [Sursa Hall] as well as the beautiful grounds all across campus. Their support and their commitment are vital to the success of this academic enterprise. And we know, and I’ve come to know that Ball State has talented and resourceful students. They arrive on this campus with untapped potential, but with ambitious aspirations. The educational experiences that they receive here enables them to reach their full potential and to achieve those ambitions.

And when they depart, when they graduate, Ball State graduates become leaders in their professions and in their communities. They use the knowledge and the skills that they have obtained at Ball State to seize today’s opportunities and to prepare for tomorrow's challenges.

Though they may ultimately travel to distant places, your alumni as I have learned, they remain engaged with the university in many important ways and they provide outstanding philanthropic support for the next generation of entrepreneurial learners. As a result of the efforts of so many people, Ball State is now recognized all across the state of Indiana and in the statehouse, here in Indiana. For its role in enhancing economic development and in promoting civic and cultural vitality. And that recognition is spreading from coast to coast and from continent to continent.

Over the next few months, as I prepare to transition to Ball State, I look forward to meeting so many more of you, the faculty, the staff, the students, the alumni, community leaders and elected officials. I need to learn; I need to learn much more about your university and I need to learn more about you. And so, when we meet, I’m going to ask you, I will ask you two simple questions: What do you think I need to know about your university and this community? And secondly, what do I need to know about you? And that’s because I believe that before I can lead, I must learn and I must listen.

And before I can assist you in developing a plan to build on the successes that you have achieved over the past century, we must assess together the progress that you have made in achieving the goals that you have already set for the university. So, when we meet I hope that you will also ask me some questions, too. But I want to take this opportunity today, this afternoon, to anticipate one question, why Ball State for me?

While I briefly eluded to many of the reasons a moment ago, innovative academic programs, excellent talented faculty, dedicated staff, devoted leadership all across the campus, bright ambitious students and generous alumni, outstanding facilities, a beautiful campus and elected officials who are providing increasing financial support for this university in recognition of your successes.

These are all important factors, but I was drawn to Ball State as a result of another more distinctive attribute. This public university proudly proclaims its commitment to certain enduring values. Beneficence, the iconic statue symbolizes the generosity of the Ball Brothers who as you know, their initial donation of land created the foundation for this institution. That statue also symbolizes the sustained generosity of their descendants, generosity that has enabled your university to grow and to thrive.

This statue is an enduring symbol of the value of gratitude. It is in that spirit that I express my gratitude to my colleagues and to my friends of Northern Kentucky University. Working together as you heard a moment ago, we improved student outcomes and we persuaded the general assembly to provide additional state funding, preserved state funding for NKU. As they know as I often say and I truly believe, something special is happening at NKU, And I will always be proud and very grateful to have been a part of it. So, my gratitude and my thanks to them.

To my wife, Jennifer, we’ve been partners for many years, we don’t many of these people so we will not acknowledge how many years it has been, but throughout this wonderful journey, in good times and bad, you’ve been my strength, thank you.

To my son, traveled all the way from Charlottesville, Virginia yesterday to be here to represent his four bright and beautiful sisters, thank you I’m proud of you son, and I love you too.

This university’s values are also articulated in the Beneficence Pledge. Academic excellence in teaching, learning and scholarship, honesty and integrity in order to earn and maintain trust and respect. Social responsibility through civility, courtesy and compassion. Inclusion, valuing the intrinsic work of all people and learning from their different experiences and their different ideas.

I was drawn to this university because those values are the ones that were instilled in me by my parents. In 1951, my father graduated from college, he was the first person in our family to earn a college degree. The education that he received changed his life and it changed the trajectory of our entire family. That is why I believe in the transformative power of education.

A few years later, after he graduated from law school, my father devoted his entire career to higher education. For 40 years as a law professor and as a university administrator, he was committed to excellence in teaching, scholarship and in service. In service to the institution and in service to the community. My mother, after raising nine children. That’s right I’m one of nine kids. But my mother, after she raised nine children she wasn’t done she dedicated her time to public service. She was on city council for 10 years and she was the first women to be elected as the mayor of Shaker Heights, Ohio.

By their example, I learned the value of academic excellence, and the value of servant leadership. My parents taught all of us, through example, my parents taught all of us to treat everyone with courtesy and with respect. They embodied the values of integrity, civility and humility. Both of my parents died a few years ago. But today in their memory, I pledge to all of you, that I will embrace these values, your values, as the 17th president of Ball State University. Thank you very much for this honor, thank you very much.

Bellow is Mearns' special message to Ball State posted on the university's YouTube channel. 

MEARNS: My wife Jennifer and I are pleased and proud that you have invited us to join the Ball State University community. It will be an honor and privilege to serve with you and that’s because, like you, we believe in the transformative power of education. Particularly, public higher education. 

For nearly 100 years, the outstanding and dedicated faculty and staff of Ball State have transformed the lives of tens of thousands of students, men and women with great hope and ambitious aspirations. And then, these graduates have used the knowledge and the training that they were so fortunate to receive here to transform their communities, this state, our country and our world.

Jennifer and I are grateful. We’re grateful that you’ve given us the opportunity to join with you to serve this great mission and to extend the legacy of Ball State University for another 100 years.


More from The Daily

This Week's Digital Issue

Loading Recent Classifieds...