When Ohio University President Roderick McDavis leaves office next month, an administrator who has worked with the university for more than 35 years will briefly take the reins.
David Descutner, a special adviser of Faculty & Academic Planning in OU’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, will be OU’s interim president from Feb. 18 until June 30.
Beginning Feb. 1, he will serve as special assistant to the president. Following his term as interim president, he will serve as special assistant again until July 31 to aid the transition for OU’s new president.
As interim president, Descutner’s main role will be to facilitate the university’s transition to a new president.
OU spokeswoman Carly Leatherwood said Descutner has not signed his employment contract yet, so specific details about his employment are not available. She said the university anticipates the contract will be in place the week of Jan. 30.
Other universities in Ohio have had interim presidents recently. The University of Akron’s Board of Trustees appointed Matthew Wilson the university’s interim president in July. He was named permanent president of the university in October, according to Cleveland.com.
As interim president there, Wilson worked on enrollment and helped maintain the university’s budget.
Joseph Alutto, now a distinguished professor in Ohio State University’s College of Business, served as OSU’s interim president from July 2013 to June 2014.
While he worked as interim president, Alutto maintained the same duties of a permanent president.
Descutner said stability is important to him when it comes to transitioning from interim president to the next university president.
"I want to make sure that the new president has every chance of being successful right from the get-go,” Descutner said.
He referred to himself as an “absolute sponge for learning.” He received his bachelor's degree from Slippery Rock State University in Pennsylvania and his master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Illinois.
"What I've discovered is if you are able to have a song-like approach to the world, you're never stale,” Descutner said. “You're always fresh to new insights, new ways of thinking.”
McDavis said he plans to help Descutner, a friend and colleague, as much as possible after McDavis leaves Feb. 17.
“I'm going to stand ready to help the new permanent president once he or she is appointed," McDavis said.
McDavis cited Descutner’s academic background as a key qualification for interim position.
"Anytime you look for a president — interim or permanent — there are certain qualities, certainly communication skills, and Dean Descutner is right at the top of that list in terms of his ability to effectively communicate,” McDavis said.
Board Chair David Wolfort said McDavis, faculty and Faculty Senate, among others, recommended Descutner as an interim president.
"Provost (Pam Benoit) was also on that list, but the provost is running (as) our finalist as president, and she agreed with us that that might not be appropriate,” Wolfort said.
Benoit also said she has worked with Descutner before.
“We actually have known each other for a really long time,” Benoit said. “I can't think of anyone else to step into this role to make sure that we have a good transition."