Bowling Green President Named to Top Position

Sidney A. Ribeau will be Howard's 16th president.
Sidney A. Ribeau will be Howard's 16th president. (Photo: Courtesy of Howard University)
  Enlarge Photo    
By Valerie Strauss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 8, 2008

Bowling Green State University President Sidney A. Ribeau, who during a 13-year tenure at the Ohio campus raised low morale, exceeded fundraising goals and created model learning opportunities for students, was named president of Howard University yesterday with the hope that he would do the same for one of the nation's premier historically black universities, officials said.

Ribeau will succeed H. Patrick Swygert, who is stepping down at the end of June after a 12-year tenure in which he led a record-setting capital campaign and a technology overhaul on campus, but whose management style was described by some students and faculty as aloof and authoritarian. Earlier this year, the faculty legislative body voted no-confidence in Swygert.

"We had an understanding of the needs of the students and the needs and desires of the faculty, and we tried to match that with the candidate," said former secretary of state Colin L. Powell, co-chairman of the presidential search committee for Howard.

Powell said that Ribeau, 59, "has a superb track record as president of Bowling Green State University. He has a tremendous reputation in the community. He is in very close touch with the students. They really admire their president. And he has the good leadership and management skills that we are looking for at Howard."

University officials said they could not release Ribeau's salary or the terms of his contract. According to the most recent figures available, Swygert received $552,196 in total compensation in 2005-2006.

Ribeau, who is married and a father of three, will take over as the 16th president of the 11,000-student university Aug. 1. He was traveling yesterday, but said in a statement: "I am excited by the opportunity to serve this historic institution. Howard is a remarkable university, a truly international university and one that has made significant contributions not only in this country but around the world, training principally African Americans for global leadership roles in America and the world."

Word on the Bowling Green campus that Ribeau was leaving sparked an outpouring of praise from students, faculty and administrators, who said he was charismatic, funny, accessible and a model of collaboration, commitment and cooperation.

Supporters said he balanced the many aspects of the job of a university president, understanding the need to promote academics and athletics while fundraising and dealing artfully with local and federal officials.

"Howard made an incredible choice," Bowling Green Executive Vice President Linda S. Dobb said. "I think we were hoping that because we are in the Midwest he would remain a secret."

One of the few criticisms of Ribeau was his inability to make faculty salaries competitive with those of other Ohio universities. But some faculty members said they blame the school's board of trustees as much as they do Ribeau, who declined to take pay increases some years.

Ribeau arrived at Bowling Green in 1995, at a time when morale was shattered, staff had been reduced, the budget was in crisis and the university community was questioning the mission of the school, faculty and administrators said.

"He pulled the divided campus together, and that includes faculty, staff, students and alumni," said Ed Whipple, vice president for student affairs, who arrived on campus shortly before Ribeau.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company