Richard Hyatt: Tim Mescon may have crippled CSU's capital campaign

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerJune 21, 2014 

If the Energizer Bunny had a Ph.D., he would be Tim Mescon.

His six years as president of Columbus State University have been an adventure. If he had hair, it would constantly be on fire and activity at the university reflects that. But sometimes his frenetic style gets him in trouble and the way he handled interest in a faraway job is his latest stumble.

Emerging from a field of 60 candidates, Mescon was one of three finalists for the presidency of Eastern Washington University. This week that job went to Mary Cullinan, the president at Southern Oregon University.

So where does that decision 2,424 miles away from the CSU Clock Tower leave Mescon and the university he leads?

His reputation followed him to Washington. The first question asked at a public forum out West was about the no confidence vote the CSU faculty gave him in 2010. He handled it deftly, reminding us how well he performs on the high wire.

What those people could not experience was the way Mescon fanned the flames in downtown Columbus. Having a second campus on the Chattahoochee River awakened a sleepy part of town and expanded the future of an institution that isn't that far removed from its birth in a hosiery mill.

Mescon sparked that growth and has become its face. He is a man in a hurry so it isn't shocking that at the age of 59 he felt he couldn't ignore the opportunity offered at an institution outside of his comfort zone.

But typically, he stepped on toes back home.

One day after he addressed trustees of the Columbus State University Foundation, they read in the newspaper that their president had applied for the EWU position and that he was a finalist. By then, he was on his way to be interviewed.

Left behind were evolving plans for a $100 million capital campaign. It wasn't public yet but around $30 million was already raised. By flirting with this job, Mescon may have crippled that effort.

That campaign is crucial for CSU. It has been nearly a decade since the last one brought in more than $100 million and the university must keep that momentum alive.

Mescon's role is vital. He must come home and rebuild his own image on his own campus.

It can't be life as usual.

Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at hyatt31906 @knology.net

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