THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Friday, December 9, 1994 TAG: 9412090617 SECTION: LOCAL PAGE: B3 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: BY PHILIP WALZER, STAFF WRITER DATELINE: PORTSMOUTH LENGTH: Medium: 83 lines
Old Dominion University's provost, Jo Ann M. Gora, was chosen Thursday to be the university's acting chief when President James V. Koch takes a one-semester leave of absence next fall.
Gora, 49, will be the first female president of a doctoral institution in Virginia - if only for a semester. And she will be only the second woman to be president of any state-supported four-year school in the commonwealth's history.
Janet Greenwood was the first, leading Longwood College from 1981 to 1987.
Gora, who came to ODU as provost two years ago, has developed a reputation as a forceful, sometimes blunt, administrator, with ambitious plans for the university. But some professors have complained that she doesn't always consider their views.
Margaret A. Miller, associate director of the State Council of Higher Education, praised the selection.
``I think Jo Ann is a very good choice to be the first because she's bound to do a good job,'' she said. ``She's very dynamic - she's got good ideas, she's got good energy, she really puts herself out there.
``I have a lot of respect for her.''
Koch will be away from Sept. 20 through Dec. 25, 1995, writing a book and teaching economics at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia. ODU's Board of Visitors approved Gora as president for that period during a meeting at ODU-NSU's Tri-Cities Center in Portsmouth.
Afterward, Gora said: ``Let's remember that this is an acting position. I am really filling in for the president while he takes a much-deserved leave.''
Across the nation, 14 percent of college presidents are female, according to the American Council on Education. But women are better represented among full-time faculty, making up 31 percent of the ranks, the American Association of University Professors estimates.
Women have been blocked from the top spots in higher education by blind adherence to tradition, Miller said.
``Search committees are quite unimaginative,'' she said. ``When you're looking for somebody to fill a position, you're looking for a person who looks like the person who has always filled that position. If you've never seen a woman president before, a woman who applies for that job won't look like a president to you.''
But Miller noted that there has been a growth of appointments of women as provost, the No. 2 job on campus, at Virginia schools in the '90s. ``I expect the same at the presidential level in the next few years,'' she said.
As provost, Gora oversees academics and the faculty and runs the university when Koch is away.
She led the panel that drafted the university's strategic plan, setting its priorities for the rest of the decade, and championed the Career Advantage program, approved by the board Thursday. That program, to start next fall, will offer all students the option of a four-year program of career counseling and workshops, culminating in a one-semester job internship.
``She has a very active agenda,'' said Robert L. Ake, a chemistry professor who is chairman of ODU's Faculty Senate. ``She wants to get things accomplished. She is trying to build an undergraduate program that would make Old Dominion distinguished, and it's quality distinction, not just glitz.''
But Ake complained that Gora isn't always sensitive to the importance of consulting professors in university decisions: ``There are some times when she has her own agenda and she doesn't get our input. When she asks, she listens. But sometimes, she hasn't asked.''
Next fall, Gora said, her main goals will be to oversee the Career Advantage program and help craft the university's 1996-98 budget.
Before coming to ODU, Gora was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. Her academic specialty is sociology, and she has written two books: ``The New Female Criminal: Empirical Reality or Social Myth?'', which looks at the effect of the women's movement on crime, and ``Emergency Medical Squads: Professionalism in Unpaid Work.''
When Koch returns after Christmas next year, Gora said, she plans to return to her job as provost and stay at ODU. ``I enjoy being the chief academic officer,'' she said. ``It's a wonderful institution to work with, with just an extraordinary faculty and a real willingness to do new and exciting things.'' ILLUSTRATION: Photo
Jo Ann M. Gora