Faculty, staff bid goodbye to Provost Frank

Photo submitted by Carrie Blazina.

Photo submitted by Carrie Blazina.

Carrie Blazina

President Lester Lefton told the crowd at Wednesday’s farewell reception for Provost Robert Frank what he had done to make Frank successful in his new job.

“The other night I probably gave him the most important thing that he’s going to need at the University of New Mexico — a good bottle of Irish whiskey,” Lefton said.

The reception, in the Music and Speech Center lobby, bid farewell to the university’s chief academic officer, who is leaving to accept the presidency at New Mexico, his alma mater.

Aside from the whiskey, Lefton said Frank would be successful because of his background working with data.

“I think your data-driven approach to decision making is going to stand you in very good stead,” Lefton said. “ … You have made it a hallmark of everything that you do to have data to support the decision that you’ve made, and it has made us a better place.”

Frank said in an interview Tuesday he has learned a lot in his five years at Kent State.

“As a provost I’ve gotten a chance to understand a lot more of the mechanics and what you have to pay attention to at the university,” he said. “ … I’ve had a great opportunity to learn about all that and to get my experience in some of the non-academic areas … that I didn’t know as much about having been a dean before.”

Among Frank’s accomplishments at Kent State, Lefton said, were the establishment of the College of Public Health, the implementation of the Graduation Planning System [widely known as GPS] and the Math Emporium in the University Library.

Frank said in hindsight, he was glad to get as much done as he did, which Lefton made note of by calling his style of efficiency a “high-speed train,” but Frank said he wishes he could have slowed down a bit.

“It was a tradeoff between going slower and not getting as much done, and the environment was one that demanded us get a lot done,” he said. “I wouldn’t undo those things, I just wish we could have gone a little slower on a few of them.”

Frank said he hopes his legacy at Kent State will be positive, but he has no control over that.

“At the end of the day, you don’t have a lot of control about how people think about you,” Frank said. “ … I’m sure some people are happy that I’m leaving, but it’s not that I feel like I walk around campus and people are saying ‘oh, get rid of him.’”

Frank said the provost does not always get to see the impact of the decisions he makes as much as a dean or department chair might, but other event attendees spoke freely about Frank’s impact on them and on Kent State.

Eboni Pringle, executive director for student learning and success, said Frank will be remembered for his “emphasis and excitement and support of student success.”

“From the classroom to outside the classroom, he has always looked for opportunities to create an environment for students to be successful,” Pringle said.

She also said Frank had always been supportive of her as well.

“Dr. Frank has been extremely supportive of me as an individual, and also of my projects that I’ve been passionate about regarding student success,” she said. “He always challenges us to think big, think grand, and I appreciate it.”

Randi Schneider, the former associate director of student success programs, said she has only been an assistant in the provost’s office for a few months but has worked with Frank in the past on projects like retention and graduation.

She also said a side of Frank not everyone gets to see is the philanthropic side. She said she has worked with Frank on the annual campaign to raise money for United Way.

“I think his legacy is absolute passionate support for the local community and giving back,” Schneider said. “[Frank thought] the institution has a responsibility to give back generously to Portage County.” 

Schneider said the university raised about $160,000 last fall for the United Way.

Schneider said Frank will be missed at Kent State.

“We will miss Provost Frank; he did great work,” she said. “But we know he’s going on to be the president of a great university and also his alma mater. So we’re happy for him and we’re excited for him.”

Frank said he will miss Kent State, but he is looking forward to going back to his alma mater. Though a lot has changed in New Mexico, he said a lot about the landscape has stayed the same.

“It’s the same mountains, same big blue sky, same wide-open mesas, so it’s still beautiful,” he said.

Frank got slightly choked up as he addressed the crowd at the reception.

“It’s hard to imagine five years ago we’d be in a position where we’d be saying goodbye,” he said. “It’s a day of very mixed feelings.”

“ … We’re gonna see Kent State do great things,” he said. “I’m sorry [my wife] Jan and I won’t be here for all of them, but we’ll be watching them and we’ll be always with you.”

Contact Carrie Blazina at [email protected].