Ball State University’s trustees on Thursday named Paul W. Ferguson, the president of the University of Maine, to lead the 19,000-student campus in Muncie.
Ferguson, 61, has led the University of Maine since 2011. Born in Hollywood, Calif., he holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from California’s Whittier College and a doctorate in pharmacology and toxicology from the University of California, Davis.
Ferguson was selected by a 16-member search committee led by Ball State trustee Wayne Estopinal, an architect in Jeffersonville. He was picked out of three finalists the Ball State trustees interviewed May 12 at the Conrad Indianapolis hotel.
Ball State’s current president, Jo Ann Gora, will retire in June after 10 years leading the university. Gora arrived as the 14th president of Ball State in 2004, becoming the first woman to serve as president of a public university in Indiana. Ferguson will take office on Aug. 1.
Provost Terry King will serve as interim president between Gora’s retirement on June 30 and Ferguson’s first day in office.
“Ball State has been on my radar for many, many years,” Ferguson told a crowd at Sursa Hall on the Ball State campus in Muncie. “I’ve always run into people who know Ball State and know it well.”
Ferguson began his academic career as a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Louisiana in Monroe, La.. He worked five years in industry at Unocal Corp. in Los Angeles, before returning to the University of Louisiana.
In 1999, he moved to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, where he became vice president for research. He became provost at the University of Southern Illinois in 2006.
Ferguson and his wife, Grace, have three grown children.
During Gora’s tenure, Ball State’s applications have shot up 70 percent and the quality of its incoming students has improved.
The university has focused its mission on what it calls “immersive learning,” which involves getting students involved in hands-on projects not only on campus but in community projects in every county of Indiana.
“I am so impressed with the immersive learning concept,” Ferguson said Thursday. “I really do want to see how we can be the national model for that.”
Gora successfully raised $210 million in a capital campaign that concluded in 2011. During her tenure, Ball State has built $520 million in new facilities, including a geothermal district energy system that helped the college save $2 million per year compared with its previous coal-burning power plants.
Gora’s base pay is $446,338, and Estopinal told the Star-Press in Muncie this week that the new president would be paid at a similar level.
“Our current president, Jo Ann Gora, has set the bar high,” said Rick Hall, an Indianapolis attorney who is chairman of the Ball State board of trustees. “The trustees believe we have found the right person to carry Ball State forward.”