By Timothy Pontzer | @timothy_pontzer
Following a Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday morning, George Hynd was appointed as the new president of Oakland University.
Hynd becomes the sixth person to hold the position in school history, officially taking the office on Aug. 15. He currently is the provost and executive vice president of academic affairs at the College of Charleston, a post he has occupied since 2010. Before that, Hynd served in various senior roles at Georgia, Purdue and Arizona State.
“I am looking incredibly forward to being immersed in school,” Hynd said. “I truly believe OU is a gem in higher education in Michigan. I know we are going to have a lot of fun working together.”
Wednesday’s board meeting was only a formality, with Hynd being voted unanimously to the title.
Hynd replaces interim president Betty Youngblood who took over in June of last year. Youngblood was tapped after the abrupt retirement of Gary Russi in June 2013, the very same day that his wife, then-OU women’s basketball coach Beckie Francis was fired. Russi had held the presidency since 1996.
“After Dr. Russi left, we were very fortunate to have Dr. Youngblood within our ranks,” Board of Trustees Chairman Michael Kramer said. “She guided us with confidence and continued to move the university forward. Now George will continue that. His qualifications and abilities were a natural match for us at Oakland.”
Kramer explained the process of selecting a new president involved numerous interviews with nearly a dozen candidates. In the first week of July, three finalists were announced, each of whom were once again interviewed and participated in public forums on campus with students and faculty. Hynd was selected over James Spaniolo, the higher education adviser to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder; and Rodney Rogers, currently serving as the provost at Bowling Green.
“From the candidate’s perspective, the search committee’s process was outstanding,” Hynd said. “It was clear during the interviews that everyone felt so passionately about the school and the points of pride here at Oakland.”
Hynd said that he had his follow-up interview on July 1 and flew back home two days later. The next day he received a phone call that he had the job. However, he did not know when the decision would be announced until late Tuesday night. Kramer called Hynd and the new president boarded a midnight flight to Michigan, getting in at about 3 a.m.
“Students want to come here for all the right reasons, and I am no different,” Hynd said. “I’m ready to launch the ship.”
Hynd highlighted the various programs at OU, calling it a destination school. He remarked that he hopes to recruit his daughter –currently a senior in high school – to become a Golden Grizzly.
“When you read through the history of Oakland, Matilda Wilson had a commitment to the liberal arts,” Hynd said. “That is an incredible foundation for OU, but we also have seen a smart focus on healthcare and there is an outstanding school of education here.”
When asked what his first step would be, Hynd plans to come back before August and meet with every board member and the leadership committee. He wants to learn their aspirations for the school and start to collect some ideas moving forward. One key personal aspiration for Hynd was to see more students involved on campus.
“We really want this to be a campus community, with community in capital letters,” Hynd said. “Right now, only 14 percent of students live on campus. We need to be strategic and come up with thoughtful ways to bring in more students, because then they will be more engaged, have higher retention rates of learning, and they are more likely to graduate from here in four or six years.”
Despite only having stepped foot on campus twice, Hynd was very impressive with his extensive knowledge of Oakland. During his press conference and subsequent interviews, he routinely spouted off percentages, facts, famous alumni and more about the school where he is about to take the helm. When asked if OU could continue to grow and one day be looked at like a Michigan or Michigan State, he was quick with his answer.
“Absolutely, this school is extremely appealing in a variety of ways,” Hynd said. “Through the alumni that spread the good word around the world, they help to deliver the message that Oakland is an outstanding institution.”