Todd Diacon takes on his first day as president of Kent State

President Todd Diacon (right) walks next to Associate Dean for Administration Donald Williams (left) as they talk and exercise at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center on July 1, 2019.

Rachel Karas

Todd Diacon began his first day as President of Kent State at 6:30 a.m. doing something he does every day: walking at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center. He said he usually listens to a podcast called ‘Fresh Air’ or NPR while he walks. 

“I like to get exercise, and what I’ve found is if I don’t do it first thing in the morning, then life happens and you know, and I never get to exercise,” Diacon said. 

After getting some exercise, Diacon attended a breakfast held at the Kent State University Hotel & Conference Center where he met and spoke with leaders of the community. 

Diacon spoke about his experiences when he first came to Kent to interview for the position of provost back in 2012. 

“I knew, from my own experience, that at any point and time anything could pop up that would derail the process,” Diacon said in his opening speech. “And so as soon as I saw this hole in the ground at the time and then heard more from Dave (Ruller) and from Lester about what was going on, I knew this was really the place for me.” 

Dave Ruller is the city manager of the city of Kent and has known Diacon since he came to Kent State. Ruller is looking forward to Diacon’s time as president because of all the knowledge he will bring with him into the role. 

“As he mentioned, he (Diacon) has direct experience with really trying to work this ‘town gown’ stuff and I think that is invaluable,” Ruller said. “He understands kinda what it’s like to sit in our chair and having him now in that chair is awfully exciting, because we feel it is someone who understands us and we’ve really tried hard to understand the university.” 

Diacon went straight into some meetings after he finished breakfast with all the community leaders. He met with his office staff and then the members of the President’s Cabinet, both groups he said he knew very well already due to his experiences as provost. 

One of the cabinet members is Melody Tankersley, who started her role as interim provost to replace Diacon as he stepped into his new role as president. She believes that the knowledge Diacon had prior to becoming president will help in growing the relations between Kent State and the city of Kent. 

“I do know that one of … the things he (Diacon) knows about communities and universities is this partnership that has to exist. Right now there is a lot of interest in going to industries, businesses and figuring out what people need for the next ten years,” Tankersley said.  “I think there’s going to be a lot more discussion within our community about their needs in terms of educational opportunities as well.”

To close out his first day, Diacon met with students who are a part of the Academic S.T.A.R.S. program to see why they decided to come to Kent State, as well as share his own story and some advice as the students begin their college journeys. 

“My biggest piece of advice, if you need help you just have to ask for help,” Diacon said. “You know, you’re going to have challenges and … you don’t have to face those situations on your own, you just have to reach out.” 

Director of the Student Multicultural Center Talea Drummer-Ferrell said she was excited Diacon asked to meet with the students and “was all for it.” The students expressed the same excitement and some said it meant a lot to them that he joined them. 

“I’m especially excited about coming to Kent now,” incoming freshman Gabrielle Blake said. “At my high school, no one was really connected, (but) when I came here, every official and executive really wanted to make sure they saw the students and for him (Diacon) to come here, and we were the first people that he met, I really know he’s going to push forward in things that matter to us also which is good to know.”

Rachel Karas is the editor of KentWired. Contact her at [email protected].

Corrections were made to the original version of this story to fix grammatical errors.