Provost shares reasons he chose Kent at Bowman Breakfast



University Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Todd Diacon, speaks at the semiannual Bowman breakfast in the Student Center on Wednesday Oct. 3. Diacon spoke about what he loves about Kent State and of northern Ohio. Photo by Brian Smith.

Alicia Balog

A week after Provost Todd Diacon was hired at Kent State, Diacon and his wife were eating lunch at The Mad Greek in Beachwood Place when the co-owner noticed his Kent State lapel pin and shared how proud she was of being a Kent State graduate.

“It tells me something when your graduates go out of their way to tell you what a great experience they had here,” he said.

In his speech titled, “Why I Chose (and Love) Kent State,” Diacon offered Kent State and Kent community members eight reasons for his commitment to the university at the 49th annual Bowman Breakfast Wednesday.

Diacon told the audience he loves that the university and the community are working to complete the esplanade, a project he said he failed to complete at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“I knew in Amherst that this would revolutionize campus,” Diacon said. “It would be a huge attraction to students. I knew it would help us to recruit faculty. I knew that it would help us to recruit the parents of students we were recruiting, which is always important, and it didn’t happen. But here it’s happening. Here it will do all those things.”

Diacon stressed the importance of the cooperation between the university and the community, which is not always easy.

“A lot of big decisions have to be made,” Diacon said. “A lot of large obstacles have to be overcome. Even small daily obstacles have to be dealt with. That’s not easy. So I think you realize what a special thing you got going on here with this endeavor.”

Diacon explained his first impressions of campus and said the campus sparkles.

“By that I mean that the grounds are clean,” he said. “By that I mean that the buildings, which are many of them built in the [1960s] and because of that, carry their own sets of difficulties with maintenance and upkeep have been renovated. And the historical buildings have been renovated. I come from two universities that did not do that, and so when I walk on campus, I just had this impression of a place that cares about how it looks.”

The university improves the quality of life for Northeast Ohio, he noted. Diacon said the College of Podiatric Medicine’s Cleveland foot clinic treats foot ailments. He also talked about Project Caring for Others in a Positive Experience, which helps teach grandparents how to raise their grandchildren.

He then discussed how the university expands people’s minds and advances knowledge, talking about the liquid crystal institute’s work with flexible liquid crystals and the biomedical field.

“Kent State advances knowledge that improves lives,” he said. “How can we not be excited by that?”

He also said the university nourishes students’ souls by teaching the arts, specifically about the Kent State students participating in Kent Port House productions over the summer.

“In both of those productions, it was as if time was suspended,” he said. “In both of those productions, I just got lost in the moment. And at the end, I just had the most peaceful feeling mixed an enormous sense of pride in Kent State University.”

He also highlighted poetry readings at the Wick Poetry Center and former Kent grads who became actors or writers and what the fine arts offer to people in general.

“In my opinion, all those artistic activities cause us to engage in quality self-reflection,” he said. “They remind us of the joy and beauty in this world.”

Diacon said he can experience the qualities of a big town by traveling to nearby cities such as Cleveland while still being able to appreciate the small-town atmosphere.

“The second thing I love about Northeast Ohio is that people smile and say hello to you even if they don’t know you,” he said. “Now that sounds like a rather minor thing, and that’s what I grew up in, experiencing in Kansas.”

Diacon’s final observation of the university was that it communicates its excellence to others.

“I was sitting in my hotel room, watching the local news, getting ready for the first day of interviews and on came our Kent State University television spot,” he said. “I thought, ‘wow, this is so cool that Kent State advertises’ because a lot of people don’t do that.”

Diacon, throughout his speech, said Kent State was a “university on the move” and has been told by many people how well he would fit here. He thanked members of the community and university for welcoming him and encouraged them to visit the May 4th Visitor Center when it opens October 20th.

Pamela Petrus, owner of Diversa Inc. advertising agency in Kent, said she was impressed by the provost’s pride and promotion of the university.

“I think that’s a wonderful thing to have in a provost or professor or whomever is hired here at Kent State University,” she said. “That’s what we need. We need people, the people who live in the city, live in the community, that work in the university to promote the city and university. That’s what makes us special and stand apart from other campuses.”

Jerry Fiala, Kent mayor, said although Diacon has only been here six months, the provost has a lot to give to the campus and a lot to receive in return.

“I really liked his overall of how the university is changing and how it’s blending into Kent with the esplanade,” he said. “It’s something that we’ve been working for years to do. We are all on this team as a positive direction to make it. That is our dream. That’s what we want to happen.”

Lori M. Wemhoff, executive director of the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce, said she thought the Bowman Breakfast went great and that people were drawn to hear what the new provost had to say.

“I thought the provost did a fabulous job,” she said. “He seems very down-to-earth, very approachable. You can tell that he’s got a passion for Kent State in a very short amount of time.”

Contact Alicia Balog at [email protected].