Our Take: AU finds man for the job
A new school year has begun at AU, and for the fourth time in as many years, there is a new president at the helm. Naturally, he has promised to stay. Unfortunately, this promise has been heard before. It is natural, therefore, for AU to be skeptical when it comes to its presidents' promises.
However, we have reason to think Benjamin Ladner means business. His employment history shows a man who is committed to his job, a man who will not jump on the next bus that leads to a position with more prestige. He stayed at his last job 13 years, and has said that he is not the type to pursue the career ladder aggressively. Ladner is a family man who likes comfort and familiarity more than prestige, qualities the turbulent position of AU's presidency could use.
Ladner is also a fund-raiser and a practical planner, something this university needs more than some policy wonk or someone with extravagant plans for making AU an Ivy League school. He wants to focus on AU's strengths and boost its image and prestige one step at a time, rather than trying to turn it into a carbon copy of some other school. In addition, Ladner has extensive contacts on Capitol Hill, in corporate America, and with numerous organizations whose job it is, as he says, is "to give out money." Maybe he can get some for us.
Ladner has also expressed a desire for wiping the slate clean. The scandal and messes caused by numerous turnovers in AU's top position are behind us now, and Ladner wants the world to know this. His hope is that AU's improved reputation will be able to sell the school on merit alone.
However, he has been very vague when describing his actual plans for doing all this. His convocation speech was general and unspecified, and he has not made any announcements about his plans. This vagueness may not be all bad, though. Ladner is going to be under intense scrutiny in upcoming months, and his lack of grand promises could be indicative of prudence and caution on his part. We would rather see him surprise us than disappoint us.
Not only a careful planner with plenty of experience, Ladner is simply a nice guy. He is a kidder, and his personality, like his stature, is large and visible. Walking along AU's sidewalks, he greets students with warm smiles. He is a capable public speaker and a good conversationalist. If he continues to be accessible, friendly and visible, he may help boost school spirit, another of his goals, just by being around. This university needs an ego boost - the poor turnout at his convocation speech was evidence enough of this - and he may be the man who can give it to us.
Dr. Ladner has only been here eight weeks, so there's still no way to accurately measure his performance. When the reality of running a financially crippled, apathetic university in desperate need of stable leadership hits, will he be ready? Can he cure the internal school spirit "virus" at AU that manifests itself in the form of poor athletic event turnout, a self-abasing student population, and years later, in lack of alumni support? We think so. We hope so.
Welcome home, Dr. Ladner.