Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

From Nevada with Love: JU Lands a Promising President; Kerry Romesburg Was Just the Guy Nevada Wanted, until Jacksonville Won Him

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

From Nevada with Love: JU Lands a Promising President; Kerry Romesburg Was Just the Guy Nevada Wanted, until Jacksonville Won Him

Article excerpt

Byline: BETH KORMANIK, The Times-Union

After interviewing for the presidency of Jacksonville University, Kerry Romesburg returned to his office at Nevada State College and walked into a steam room.

Humidifiers saturated the air to simulate the Florida atmosphere, and his staff scattered netting and plastic bugs throughout the office. They held up several cut-out pictures of JU personalities they had downloaded from the Internet and read from a script in an exaggerated Southern drawl.

They told Romesburg: "We want you to know what a staff meeting will be like if you go to Jacksonville University."

The staff didn't want to see him go. They liked him as a leader but also knew his leaving would be a major setback for the nascent college.

Perhaps more than wanting him as leader, they wanted a leader.

Nevada State, which opened to students in 2002, saw its first president ousted in financial and nepotism scandals. Just months before opening, it barely survived a vote to close the school. Private donations came in a trickle, delaying plans for the college's first building. But the school year ended triumphantly with the college awarding its first diplomas to 13 graduates.

Then they learned Romesburg was leaving.

Good presidents get recruited all the time, Romesburg said. In his last year at Nevada State, six search firms contacted him, including the one representing JU.

His bosses knew he might entertain other offers, just not so soon.

"Nobody wants to take the ugly girl to the dance. That's true in everything," said Jim Rogers, interim chancellor of the state's university system. "You should want people around you that everybody wants. "Kerry's one of those people, when he called and said people are looking at him, I wasn't surprised," said Jim Rogers, interim chancellor of the state's university system. "I was a little surprised he left when he did, but that's because the right offer came along. I would have gone, had I been Kerry."

RUNNER WITH LONG HOURS

Romesburg, 59, and his wife, Judy, made the cross-country drive to Jacksonville in late June. His first day on the job, July 1, he wrote trustees an e-mail from the floor of the empty presidential mansion because no furniture had arrived. The fall class arrives Tuesday, and Romesburg will spend part of his weekend helping students move into dorms and say goodbye to mom and dad.

Students will meet a president with some curious personal habits. He wakes up at 6 a.m., lifts weights for half-hour and then sets out on a 3-mile run. He usually works a 10-hour day and saves his evenings for university functions. He often skips breakfast and lunch, relying on vitamins and a glass of skim milk to fuel him until dinner.

The move to Florida put only a minor crimp in Romesburg's schedule. He used to rise at 5 a.m. but had to push it back because it's too dark. He doesn't want to risk tripping over roots on the dirt road he jogs on JU's campus.

The private Jacksonville University is Romesburg's third presidency in a career spent entirely in public higher education. Romesburg served as executive director of higher education commissions in Alaska and Arizona. His next stop was at Utah Valley State College, where he served from 1988 to 2002. He presided over explosive growth as the two-year vocational school changed into a four-year college with more than 24,000 students. The state's population boom and the school's open-enrollment policy fueled the growth, as did millions of dollars from the state Legislature.

Critics wonder how much Romesburg had to do with winning state dollars. The strong economy of the late 1990s certainly helped, as did local politicians in key legislative positions, heading the appropriations committees in both the Utah House and Senate.

Still, when Romesburg left in 2002 for Nevada, most Utah leaders called his tenure there a success. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.