A month after being approved by the Board of Trustees as Temple’s 10th president, Dr. Neil Theobald visited Main Campus last weekend in order to gain a handle on what needs to be done before he takes office in January.
Theobald told The Temple News that his visit to Main Campus this weekend included meetings with business leaders, dinner with donors and meetings with the current cabinet at Temple about issues surrounding the university.
Theobald said that among the issues at his new job, “item one has been financial aid.” He said he’s met so far with Interim Provost Hai-Lung Dai about financial aid and how to keep costs down, along with Senior Vice President for Institutional Advancement David Unruh, to discuss fundraising.
While he said that financial aid is a top issue at Temple, Theobald noted that it’s a hot topic at most other universities and spoke about how to keep education affordable without lowering quality in the classroom.
“It does no good to cut the cost, if you cut the quality,” Theobald said. “The way I think about that, is that cost containment that is farthest from the classroom is where we start first. We need top faculty, experienced faculty in the classroom.”
Theobald spoke about ways the administration cut costs at Indiana University, where he is currently the chief financial officer and senior vice president. At Indiana, Theobald said, the university would get together with administrators from Ohio State University and the University of Michigan and compare costs on a particular subject and see how each can operate more efficiently and set a benchmark for what to spend.
“We’re all doing research administration. What should you spend on research administration?” Theobald said. “There isn’t any book you can pull off the shelf that says it ought to cost you this. This gives us data to compare to each other.”
He said he’d bring this trait to Temple and compare the university’s expenditures to that of other Big East universities.
Theobald will be back at Temple a few more times before he takes office on Jan. 1, 2013, and said that he’d be here about every three to four weeks including a stop during homecoming the first weekend of October. He also said he’ll be attending a Temple football game in Louisville, Ky., on Nov. 3, against the University of Louisville.
While his last day at Indiana is Dec. 31, Theobald said he hopes to be working at Temple early in December. Currently, he is working with Indiana administrators to secure funding for the school from the state legislature.
“Right after that, moving vans, and we should be out by the holidays,” Theobald said. “I will be here by January 1, absolutely. No way it goes beyond that, but I hope to be here by December 15.”
He also spoke about some of the projects at Temple that excited him, including the proposed construction of a new library on Broad Street, which would replace Paley Library.
“The ability to plan, from scratch, a new library, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do as someone who’s been a professor most of my life,” Theobald said. “There is little at a university, especially a 21st century university, that is more important than a library, so I love the idea that it’s right on Broad [Street] and very visible.”
Theobald also complimented Acting President Richard Englert on his handling of the transition and said that he “couldn’t ask for a better mentor [than Englert].”
“I can’t be complimentary enough of President Englert, he’s wonderful,” Theobald said. “He’s nice, but he’s also extremely competent, great judgment. He is a mentor of mine of how to do this job.”
Theobald will move into a univeristy owned property in Rittenhouse Square in Center City where former presidents David Adamany and Ann Weaver Hart lived.
Though he said he’s excited to tackle the issues currently facing Temple, he said he can’t wait to start his new position on Main Campus.
“The opportunities we have here at Temple to change people’s lives are just phenomenal,” Theobald said. “I am just thrilled with this job and can’t wait to get here and do it every day.”
Sean Carlin can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @SeanCarlin84.