Neil Theobald says ‘affordability’ a key issue
A college administrator from Indiana University has officially been named the next leader of Temple University. Temple trustees voted Tuesday August 7 to appoint senior vice president Neil Theobald as the school’s tenth president. Theobald will start Jan. 1, replacing Ann Weaver Hart, who left in June to become president of the University of Arizona.
“It is great to be an Owl,” Theobald told the board of trustees and staff shortly after the vote. “This is the dream job I’ve always wanted to have.”
A native of Peoria, Illinois, Theobald has spent the last 20 years at Indiana University. He previously was a professor at the University of Washington. Theobald earned a bachelor’s degree from Trinity College and a doctoral degree from the University of Washington.
“Neil Theobald was the right person at the right time for Temple,” said Patrick J. O’Conner, Temple University’s trustee chairman. “He was the first member of his family to go to college, an experience many Temple students share. He wants to ensure that students have access to an education that is first-class and affordable. At Indiana, he made tough decisions demanded by our times, while creating greater opportunities for student scholarship. I can’t think of a better set of values to bring to the Temple presidency.”
Theobald has been in Philadelphia for the past few days visiting the campus and holding meet-and-greets with faculty, staff and students. He gave brief opening statements at all the sessions. He also addressed key issues including financial aid, campus life for students and Temple’s recent move to the Big East.
“The affordability for students while maintaining an excellent education is a key issue I want to address,” he said. “We cannot continue to raise tuition and allow student debt levels to go up. I will look at financial aid programs, fundraising, bringing different resources in and containing the cost as much as we can. People are attracted to quality, so affordable and excellent will do well in any market.”
As one of fourteen state-related universities, Temple receives public funds but is not under direct state control. It’s one of the largest schools in Pennsylvania, with about 39,000 undergraduate and graduate students. About 10 percent of Temple’s nearly $1.2 billion budget comes from the state.
Theobald served as chief financial officer at Indiana, which has a budget of $3.1 billion. Under his direction, Indiana implemented a $38.4 million budget cut while avoiding layoffs and providing funding for faculty. The staff salary was increased two percent per year.
“I will apply the same financial blueprint I had at Indiana, adjust it a little bit, and apply it to Temple,” he said. “I will look at Temple’s spending by area and department with that of other major state universities, such as Ohio, Michigan and Indiana. I also want to meet with the community leaders around Temple.
“I want to hear their issues and I want to work with them in addition to our alumni. These are just some of the things that I want to do when I start. I will be back several times between now and my official start date so that I will be ready to lead the university. We need to hit the ground running in January. Temple is a great university and Philadelphia is a wonderful city. I’m looking forward to being a part of it.”
Provost Richard Englert will continue to serve as interim president until Dec. 31.