Geoffrey Mearns named incoming president for Ball State University

Topics: Administrative, Board of Trustees, President

January 24, 2017

Incoming President Geoffrey Mearns
Geoffrey Mearns will be Ball State's 17th president.

The Ball State University Board of Trustees today selected Geoffrey S. Mearns to become the institution’s 17th president.

"Geoff Mearns is exactly the leader Ball State needs to move us boldly into the next 100 years," said Board Chair Rick Hall. "His prior experience and knowledge of higher education will enable him to partner with our faculty, staff, and administration to provide Ball State students with a life-changing education."

"At the same time, he will be a champion of the university, building with our alumni and friends, and the greater community, the relationships that are so critical to Ball State's continued success," Hall said.

Mearns comes to Ball State after spending more than four years as the president of Northern Kentucky University. There, he led an advocacy campaign to garner additional state support for the university, in an effort to address a historic funding disparity. The multiyear educational efforts resulted in an additional $5.1 million in funding for the university.

Additionally, Mearns secured the largest single capital investment in Northern Kentucky’s history, via a $97 million appropriation from the state for the institution’s health innovation center. Those funds were bolstered by an additional $8 million private gift Mearns secured from a large hospital system in the region.

And Mearns championed for student success and campus inclusivity, personally visiting 75 high schools across the commonwealth to meet prospective students and to talk with teachers and guidance counselors about the university. The collective efforts of the university community resulted in enrollment classes that showed a boost in students’ median ACT scores for incoming freshman classes, from 21.7 to 24, and substantially increased the number of underrepresented minority student enrollment.

Prior to his role at Northern Kentucky, Mearns served as provost at Cleveland State University, leading CSU’s successful reaccreditation efforts and spearheading a concerted and comprehensive campus-wide initiative to improve undergraduate retention and graduation rates.

“From our perspective, Geoff is the total package,” said Matt Momper, Ball State trustee and head of the presidential search committee. “He eloquently articulates a strong vision that ensures all members of the Ball State community — students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors and friends, our legislators, local community members, all of our partners and stakeholders — will have meaningful roles in the shaping of Ball State’s future through our long-range strategic planning process and will also have every opportunity to enjoy the success that comes when we all work toward one goal.”

Mearns earned his JD from the University of Virginia and was named to the law school’s Order of Coif, reserved for those students of exemplary academic achievement. He earned his undergraduate degree in English from Yale University.

Mearns spent 17 years as an attorney, including serving as special attorney to the U.S. attorney general in the prosecution of Oklahoma City bombing accomplice Terry Nichols. He joined the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University in 2005 as dean of the college and professor of law.

“It’s an honor to be transitioning from one exceptional university to another,” Mearns said. “Ball State, like Northern Kentucky University, has a well-deserved reputation for its commitment to academic excellence and student success.

“I cherish the opportunity to serve others, I’ll work hard to support and challenge my colleagues, and I look forward to them doing the same for me. I’m passionate about working with students, having a chance to mentor them, and learn from them, and to enjoy shared successes as a Ball State community. It’s clear that when students graduate from Ball State, they are prepared to go out and take on leadership roles in their professions, and just as importantly, in their communities.”

The economic impact Ball State has on Indiana cannot be overstated, he continued, because the university plays a vital role in producing the state’s most-needed resource — smart, resourceful, innovative graduates.

“Ball State graduates leave with the entrepreneurial skills and spirit needed to solve challenges employers are facing today,” Mearns said. “Those alumni create opportunities for their own futures and for Indiana as a whole.”

Mearns added that one of his first tasks will be to meet with deans and faculty members, students and staff, and to branch out to the greater Ball State community to connect with alumni, donors and friends in an effort to hear firsthand about the many new initiatives currently underway and to learn more about what he can do to strengthen those efforts and further grow the support for, and engagement with, the university.

“There’s a proud history of excellence here,” Mearns said. “For nearly 100 years, Ball State, through its students and alumni, its faculty, staff and leadership, its donors and friends, has provided continued evidence of the great works that come when a community stays committed to cutting-edge, principled evolutions, across the campus and throughout our greater global neighborhood. It’s long been true that Ball State students become proud, loyal alumni who are leaders in their fields and pillars of their communities. It’s a privilege and an honor to have the opportunity to partner with everyone here to find and foster additional ways to grow this world-class university.

“I look forward to serving as the 17th president of Ball State University.”

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