Cheryl Casper doesn’t back down on tough decisions

Amanda Garrett

Cheryl Casper, president of the Kent State chapter of the AAUP, counts votes from the tentative agreement with the faculty.

Credit: Beth Rankin

Cheryl Casper doesn’t shrink from a challenge whether it’s traveling in the tropics or negotiating a contract for Kent State’s faculty.

Casper, an economics professor, is beginning her fourth term as the head of the American Association of University Professors, Kent State Chapter.

The AAUP is the faculty union, which negotiates salary, benefits and university government issues with Kent State’s administration.

During the past year, Casper led the AAUP through difficult contract negotiations with the university.

After negotiating for 14 months, the faculty voted this month on a new collective bargaining agreement.

Casper said she puts in 30 or more hours per week working for the AAUP.

“Sometimes it’s like running a small business in addition to teaching,” she said.

Kent State has a particularly strong branch of AAUP, Casper said. Having a strong collective bargaining unit is good for both students and faculty, she said.

“Much of the excellence in Kent State’s various academic programs comes from having good professors,” she said. “In the past year, with all the negotiations going on, it has been very hard to recruit new faculty members.”

In addition to teaching and leading the AAUP, Casper served as assistant dean for undergraduate programs from 1979 to 1981. Casper was also the acting dean of the College of Business Administration from 1981 to 1982, and the associate provost from 1987 to 1996.

Casper grew up in Northeastern Ohio and has always lived in the region. After graduating from Euclid High School, she moved on to earn her doctorate in economics from Case Western Reserve University.

Casper currently lives in Kent with her husband, Gene Wenninger, an emeritus professor of sociology. Casper has three grown step-children who live in Boston, Los Angeles and London.

Casper is the proud owner of two cats: Buddy Blue Cat, a male Abyssinian, and Gwyneth Cat, a female Oriental shorthair.

“I love animals,” she said. “I would have more cats if my husband would let me.”

Casper and her husband also enjoy traveling. They have traveled extensively in Europe, but their most memorable journey was a 1996 trip to Costa Rica.

While visiting the Central American country during the Christmas holidays, Wenninger hurt his ankle, and Casper and her family were attacked by large flies.

“You always hear a lot about the wonders of nature,” she said. “But nature can be kind of hostile.”

Casper’s adventures in Costa Rica haven’t dampened her enthusiasm for travel. She would like to visit Australia, India and the Orient someday.

Back in Kent, Casper said she enjoys her job as AAUP president, but she will not remain in the position forever.

“I would welcome new leadership,” she said. “One of the most satisfying things about the recent contract negotiations was seeing new leadership emerge, encouraging them and supporting them.”

Contact on-campus reporter Amanda Garrett at [email protected].