From budgets to brownies

Rachel Abbey

A day in the life of the university president

President Carol Cartwright meets with Kathy Stafford, vice president of univeristy relations and development. Cartwright has several meetings throughout the day with administrators who keep her informed of the progress of university projects and events.

Credit: Jason Hall

Because of an unexpected meeting cancellation, Cartwright catches up on some phone calls.

Credit: Jason Hall

President Carol Cartwright finishes up reading the Daily Kent Stater in her office, on the second floor of the library, before her grueling daily

schedule begins.

Credit: Jason Hall

At 8:30 a.m. Nov. 18, most of the people braving the cold around campus were high school students attending an Academic Discovery Day. Many college students were still sleeping in their warm beds.

But President Carol Cartwright was already in her office, going through papers and looking over the day’s events.

“Yesterday morning I left my house at 6 a.m. to go to Cleveland for a meeting, and I got home at 11 p.m. after this event (fashion exhibit). Today I left at 10 of 8,” Cartwright said. “That’s the latest all week.”

9:09 a.m.

Cartwright picked up the phone and started making calls. She was supposed to meet with Provost Paul Gaston, but a scheduling glitch gave her an extra hour to catch up on mail and calls.

She drinks her two to two-and-a-half cups of coffee a day black, no cream, no sugar.

“Mostly, I just let it get cold,” she said. “How much is actually consumed is not a lot.”

After a fruitful phone call, Cartwright walked around the well-decorated office. Green plants and photos of her children and blue-eyed grandchildren fill the area near her desk; an alcove by the door displays awards, such as an induction into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame and her honorary life membership to the Akron Harley Owners Group; her bookshelves are lined with signed athletic mementos, books such as Women, Media and Sport and gifts to the university.

One of these gifts, a bronze-colored bell, came from Samsung. Cartwright started rummaging in the drawers below the shelves.

“There are drawers full of plaques and things,” she said. “It’s out of control.”

She pulled out a small laser and aimed it at the bell, laughing as the bell began ringing.

“Sometimes if we’re in a very complicated board meeting, I’ll just shoot this over,” she said jokingly. “Isn’t it a riot? This is one of the most intriguing things I have ever been given.”

Many of the items in Cartwright’s office will stay for her successor, such as a vibrant weaving, done mostly in blues and oranges, by faculty member Janice Lessman-Moss.

“I love her work,” Cartwright said.

“It’s going to be hard to walk away from that when I retire,” she said, looking carefully and touching the edge. “I like that very much.”

10:03 a.m.

Cartwright sat back down at her desk and started signing letters to new faculty, inviting them to a reception. She signs all her documents rather than use a stamp.

“My hand goes crazy anyway,” Cartwright said. “I have to set them aside after 100 or so.”

10:05 a.m.

Cartwright’s first official meeting of the day began. In these meetings, executive officers and Cartwright discuss issues affecting their departments.

On this day, Steve Michael, vice provost for diversity, wanted to discuss a scheduling conflict. His department has a speaker planned for the same day as an important basketball game. They bounced ideas off one another and eventually decided to keep the date but move the speaker to an earlier time of day.

Cartwright had more of these meetings with Kathy Stafford, vice president for university relations and development; Ed Mahon, vice president for Information Services; Athletic Director Laing Kennedy; and James Watson, associate university counsel.

11:32 a.m.

Murphy Ajayi, faculty member from Pan-African studies, asked to meet with Cartwright because he had some artwork to share with her. He walked in carrying a large rectangular package wrapped in black paper.

After introductions, Ajayi set the package on the table.

“In Africa when a leader is retiring, we give our best,” he said, helping Cartwright open it.

She revealed a work of oranges, greens, blues, reds and yellows, representing a sunset over mountains.

“The sunset of our lives is when we start our retirement,” Ajayi said.

Ajayi paints on the computer using mouse strokes, and he is the only person he knows of creating art this way. He started in 1996 and has completed 18 paintings.

11:49 a.m.

While across the hall, Cartwright ran into Dean of Education David England and Constance Hawke, director of federal relations and associate university counsel, who engaged her in a conversation about the latest updates from the federal government.

“I do a lot of walking around, trying to deal with things on the fly,” Cartwright said.

12:00 p.m.

At noon sharp, David Creamer, vice president for administration, and Sally Kandel, associate vice president for Research Planning and Institutional Effectiveness, joined Cartwright in her office for a working lunch. About half the time Cartwright spends lunchtime on campus, she said she has to hold one of these.

At the end of this lunch, her mostly uneaten salad still sat on her desk, work having been given priority to food.

3:09 p.m.

Cartwright came to the lounge and greeted Natasha Jenkowski, a higher education administration graduate student. Jenkowski asked to interview Cartwright for a student success report for her internship.

Cartwright was the 67th and last interview Jenkowski needed. She met with other executive officers, faculty and students, compiling results.

Jenkowski asked questions such as “Do you think students get what they want from Kent State?”, “Why do you think students choose Kent State?” and “Would you say there’s a difference between achievement and success?”

Answering the third question, Cartwright said “It’s the difference between having a life and accumulating a bunch of stuff. Achievement is made up of a bunch of benchmarks, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you feel good about it.

“Being able to get to the end of the day knowing, for the most part, I made a difference in all those things I had to do, all those places I had to be, that’s a success,” she added later.

4:58 p.m.

Cartwright donned a black apron with the words ‘Cookin’ for a Cause’ for the fund-raising event of the same name. All proceeds from the event, sponsored by Delta Sigma Theta sorority, benefited the Akron Urban League and its new center.

The Akron Urban League offers education help and workforce development for all ages, Executive Director Bernett Williams said.

As long as they could serve 250 portions, individuals and teams could enter Cookin’ for a Cause. Guests purchased admission for $40 to sample the various types of food, ranging from cheesy macaroni to wedding soup to collard greens. They also could purchase a ticket to vote for the People’s Choice Award, said Tracy Carter, who helped get the event started. Professional chefs also judged the entries for the Chef’s Award, and volunteers judged for the overall categories.

Kent State’s team prepared desserts. Associate Provost Laura Davis baked pies; Cartwright’s secretary Linda Hermann made carrot cake; the provost’s wife, Eileen Gaston, made bread pudding; Jeff Milam, executive director of the academic budget, brought triple chocolate brownies; and Associate Provost Gayle Ormiston made three previously untried cheesecake recipes.

“He’s my kind of cook,” Cartwright said. “Just branching out and trying it out.”

Although Cartwright said she loves to cook, she did not have time with her busy schedule the day before. However, she could still attend and help serve.

“I had to give him a hand with that one because it was falling apart,” Cartwright said as she sampled Ormiston’s peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake. “It gives ‘to die for’ a whole new meaning.”

5:44 p.m.

“Hello there,” Cartwright said, greeting guests at Kent State’s table. “How are you? Can we get you some dessert?”

The team served out portions and chatted up guests over the background chatter and music filling the room. Aside from food, the event had raffles and a silent auction. The silent auction featured aprons designed by professional artists, area children and Kent State fashion students.

Cartwright had her eye on a layered, beaded blue apron called “Blue Blood Jazz,” designed by freshman fashion design major Andrew Spargo.

6:13 p.m.

“I’m going to go see how I’m doing,” Cartwright said. She said she’d fight for the apron, because she really wanted it.

“That apron is up to 70 bucks,” she said later. “It’s a war for it!”

7:08 p.m.

“I was outbid,” she said, throwing her hands up by her face.

The awards began a few minutes later. Kent State’s team lost, but still cheered for the winners as they were announced.

7:34 p.m.

Cartwright’s responsibilities to the university were finished for the night. Saturday, she has to get up for an early morning meeting, but for now, she said she just wants to go home and exercise.

Contact administration reporter Rachel Abbey at [email protected].

WEB-EXCLUSIVE SLIDESHOW:  A day in the life of the university president