Provost Gaston to make transition from administration to education

Christina Stavale

Growing up, Provost Paul Gaston had no idea he would one day be a part of a higher education administration.

In his own educational endeavors, he earned a degree in English from the University of Virginia and worked for various newspapers for a number of years.

“I thought I would be a journalist,” he said.

However, eight years ago, he became a part of the Kent State community, taking the position of provost. And on June 29, he will complete his duties as senior vice president for academic affairs and proceed to teach here.

In addition to performing his duties as provost, Gaston said every other year or so, he has instructed classes. His decision to step down, he said, was in part because of one of these classes, Intro to Shakespeare.

“I found the experience was so enjoyable and so stimulating, I made the decision to round out my career in the classroom as a scholar and as a teacher,” he said.

He announced this decision in November 2005 and said in coming years he will probably be teaching classes in English or higher education administration.

Academic success

President Lester Lefton said Gaston has done a fine job handling academic affairs.

“He’s been in charge of academics in a difficult time,” Lefton said. “He’s handled it with skill, diplomacy and civility.”

One accomplishment Gaston said he takes pride in was his restructuring of the College of Fine and Professional Arts. He aided in dividing this college into the College of Communications and Information, the School of Architecture and the College of the Arts.

This, he said, brings students together in disciplines that have a lot to say to each other, creating an “intellectual conversation.”

“The academic structure is much cleaner now,” he said.

The “Renaissance man”

Marty Lambert, assistant to the provost, said Gaston has traveled widely during his years at Kent State. Some of these places, she said, include Turkey; Russia; Costa Rica; China and Florence, Italy.

On one of his travels, Lambert said, the person who was supposed to drive a van did not know how to drive stick-shift, and therefore, Gaston drove down an unfamiliar and narrow road.

However, his outside skills do not end with knowing how to drive stick-shift.

“He plays piano, drums, does woodworking and calligraphy and takes photographs,” Lambert said. “We call him the Renaissance man.”

She also complimented his writing skills and said she rarely suggests changes when reviewing his writings.

Lefton agreed.

“Some of his writings are like those of a nineteenth century poet,” he said.

If every scheduled commencement speaker shows up at this year’s ceremonies, Kent State will never hear the contents of a particular writing of Gaston’s. This is Gaston’s emergency commencement speech. If any invited speaker does not make it to the ceremony, it is Gaston’s job to give a speech.

Because he has never been put in this situation, he has kept the same emergency speech throughout the years.

“I’m glad I’ve never given this speech because then I’d have to write another emergency speech,” he said.

A man of character

Both Lambert and Lefton spoke highly of Gaston’s character. Lefton described him as “quiet and dignified, with a fine sense of humor.”

“He’s such a calm and quiet, yet strong, individual,” Lambert said. “I think that’s a real gift.”

Gaston said he has enjoyed serving Kent State as provost.

“It’s been a great fit for me and the university,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed it.”

He also said he appreciates those he has worked with these past eight years.

“It’s been a great privilege to work with some really, very dedicated deans, chairs and directors,” he said, “and to become acquainted with a wonderful community of faculty and students.”

Contact academics reporter Christina Stavale at [email protected].