Muncie, IN – Ball State University President Geoffrey S. Mearns told the audience at his installation today that he is taking personal responsibility for helping transform the Muncie community by creating and funding college scholarships for local high school students.
President Mearns and his wife, Jennifer, are committing $100,000 to establish the Mearns/Proud Family Scholarship to benefit Muncie Central graduates who are first-generation college students. President and Mrs. Mearns have named this scholarship in honor and memory of their parents.
“Muncie continues to face some significant challenges, primarily because of the adverse impacts caused by external economic forces,” Mearns said. “These changes have substantially reduced the number of manufacturing jobs, which has caused a decline in our local population. And the Muncie public schools have been hit particularly hard.
“I believe we all must do more for our schools and for our community.”
Mearns, who began his tenure in May, was formally installed as the university’s 17th president during a program in the newly expanded and upgraded Emens Auditorium. Under the theme of “Better Together,” the program served as a new beginning for the partnership between Ball State and Muncie.
“I also think that we have a moral obligation to enhance our commitment to Muncie,” he said. “That obligation derives from a simple principle: because we cannot repay those who have nurtured and supported our development, we should pay it forward — to our neighbors and to the next generation.” —Geoffrey S. Mearns
In recognition of President and Mrs. Mearns’ gift, the Ball State Board of Trustees is committing additional $150,000 from the savings of not having an extravagant installation. The Ball State University Foundation Board of Directors and the Ball State Board of Trustees are personally contributing more than $30,000 to the scholarship—bringing the total amount to more than $280,000.
Rick Hall, chair of the university’s Board of Trustees, noted that President Mearns’ father was the first in his family to earn a college degree.
“The University will continue to chart a course that is uniquely ours,” Hall said. “And along the way, we will demonstrate our values through our actions — through the opportunities we provide, the communities we improve, and the lives we change.
“In Geoff Mearns, Ball State has the right leader for that journey and to move us boldly into our next 100 years.”
He also pointed out President Mearns will continue to get to know Ball State University and community better in the coming months. In September and October, the university has scheduled public forums, where Mearns will be joined by campus and community leaders to listen to the community about how to enhance Ball State’s partnership with Muncie.
Here are excerpts from Geoffrey S. Mearns Installation Address—By: Geoffrey S. Mearns, President
Our Moral Obligation to the Community
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for joining me this afternoon. It is a privilege to serve as the president of Ball State University.
As you know, the university has gone through a protracted transition. But the institution is strong. And it’s getting stronger—day by day, month by month, year by year. We have earned an excellent reputation for academic quality and innovation across a wide range of disciplines and programs. And that reputation for excellence and rigor continues to improve. …
But as you know, Muncie is facing some challenges, primarily because of the adverse effects of external, economic forces. These changes in the economy have substantially reduced the number of manufacturing jobs, which has caused a decline in our local population. And the Muncie public schools have been hit particularly hard…In short, we here at Ball State, we have a self-interest to support our schools and to rejuvenate our community.
I also think that we have a moral obligation to enhance our commitment to Muncie. That obligation derives from a simple principle: because we cannot repay those who have nurtured and sustained our development, we should pay it forward—to our neighbors and to the next generation.
Moral Obligation Is Personal
For me, this moral obligation is also very personal.
At the announcement of my appointment in January, I spoke briefly about my parents. But I want to share a bit more about them, because it’s pertinent to my principal point.
I told you that my father was the first in our family to earn a college degree. I described how that opportunity transformed his life and change the trajectory of our whole family. And I told you that he committed his entire professional life to teaching as a law professor.
But his commitment to education extended far beyond the walls of his classrooms and far beyond the boundaries of any university campus.
In 1961, my father was appointed to serve as a consultant to the United States Civil Rights commission on Civil Rights. For two years, he travelled across the South to prepare a report on the status of school desegregation in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown vs. Board of Education. Fifteen years later, he was appointed by a federal judge in Cleveland to draft the remedial desegregation plan for that city’s public schools.
My father passionately believed that every child—every child—had a fundamental right to quality education.
In January, I also talked a bit about my mother. I told you that, after raising nine children, served 10 years on the City Council of Shaker Heights. And then she was elected as the first woman mayor of that city.
As an elected official, my mother wasn’t preoccupied with building shopping centers and office complexes. She understood that these projects where beneficial to local and regional economic development.
But my mother was much more interested in building community centers for senior citizens, and playgrounds for children, and playrooms for toddlers. And she wanted to build genuine human relationships with people.
My mother greeted everyone with a kind word and a warm smile. And, if she had met you just once, she would remember your name and the names of your children. That wasn’t a political tactic that she developed to secure votes. She remembered your name because she cared—she cared about you.
In their private lives, my parents taught all of us the meaning of true love. They showed us, through their actions, that “perfect love makes sacrifice a joy.”
In their professional and public lives, my parents showed us what servant leadership truly means. That the world “servant” always comes first. They demonstrated that the scope of our moral obligation to serve others was not limited to the four corners of a job description. Through their actions, they taught us that, each day, we are called to advance the common good. …
At the beginning of my remarks, I renewed my commitment to work hard to advance the mission of our University. As an integral part of my commitment to that mission, and to honor the memory of my parents, I will encourage our faculty, staff, and students—I will try to mobilize this small army of talented men and women to partner with our friends and neighbors to secure a bright, vibrant future for Muncie.
Our history has shown us, and my parents have taught me, that we are all better together.
We are better together.
About Ball State University
Founded in 1918 and located in Muncie, Ball State is one of Indiana’s signature universities and an economic driver for the state. The University’s 2017-18 enrollment – 22,513 – is the largest in school history and its incoming freshman class of 4,002 is just three students shy of another school record. Every Indiana county is represented among Ball State’s student body, as are all 50 states and 69 countries. Ball State’s 731-acre campus is large enough to accommodate premier facilities and 19 NCAA Division 1 sports, but small enough to ensure the friendliness, personal attention and access that are the hallmarks of the University, where 90 percent of classes are taught by faculty. Ball State will have its smallest tuition increase in 41 years for fiscal years 2018 and 2019.