Jim Herrick is Director of SDSU’s Alumni Association. This post first appeared in his blog, Directly Speaking.
The white smoke drifted out of Long Beach this morning; we have our new president! The frenetic and frantic and thoroughly comprehensive interview gauntlet of last week has yielded a decision today from Chancellor Charles Reed and the Cal State University Board of Trustees. The 8th president of San Diego State University is Dr. Elliot Hirshman.
Beyond the accompanying bio which speaks to his remarkable qualifications, academic achievement, and administrative preparedness, what can I tell you? Well, I had the fairly intense interaction of a group meeting where he demonstrated a keen interest in and understanding of the importance of our alumni. I had a quick briefing with him regarding his introduction at a reception where he demonstrated genuine humility. I listened to him be grilled for an hour at the open forum where I thought he did a great job listening to the concerns of the faculty and students and community. He deftly answered all of the questions.
When he elected not to directly address some of the hotter current topics, he did it in a way which made the questioner and the audience feel good about his response. For example, he did say a couple of times something along the lines of: “I can certainly understand your point, but I don’t believe that 48 hours on campus is enough time to properly hear and understand the complexity of this issue.” I then got to introduce him at the reception where he was most gracious. Finally, I drove him and his wife, Jeri, back to their hotel. During that trip, I heard she had had a fantastic day and was absolutely impressed with our university, our people, and our community.
The Hirshmans arrived on campus two Saturdays ago and they elected to spend the evening attending SDSU’s “Little Women,” a campus play. When Elliot was asked about his hobbies and interests, he answered that his entire professional life he had been completely immersed on campuses and the many activities and entertainments they offered. I finally learned that the Hirshmans were taking a red-eye home that very night because they had to be at work the next morning.
Elliot Hirshman is only 50. Let’s hope he follows in the tradition of long-tenured San Diego State presidents.