Local officials said some of the most valuable contributions Ohio University President Roderick McDavis’ made during his 13 years in office were those that fostered communication between the university and the city.
McDavis, who took office in 2004, saw three Athens mayors in office and opened several lines of communication between the city and the university during his presidency. One of those was the “Memorandum of Understanding,” that McDavis and former Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl created in 2012 to have a written document between the city and the university outlining their goals.
Athens Mayor Steve Patterson, who took office in 2016, said the memorandum was a “big thing” because it created cooperation between the city and OU.
“Things are being documented in terms of relationship building, shared resources, and things of that nature that hadn’t been done before,” Patterson said. “We now have a living document.”
City Council President Chris Knisely said the memorandum was created out of necessity. In 2011, OU helped Athens pay for a $1.1 million ladder truck for the city’s fire department, which had been a source of contention between university and city officials for more than a year, according to a previous Post report.
After that, the city and OU created a formal document to set out their collective goals.
When the memorandum was created, McDavis’ staff said OU and Athens would begin to work together to find initiatives on which to collaborate.
“We will begin our work very quickly and explore opportunities to improve the university and the city,” Becky Watts, chief of staff to McDavis, said in 2011.
In a public letter, McDavis said the agreement would benefit all residents of Athens.
“These partnerships reflect some of the meaningful ways we work together to benefit all who live, work and study in Athens,” McDavis said.
Patterson also said semiannual meetings between city council and OU’s administration have helped OU and Athens to communicate and that he meets with McDavis often.
“I meet with President McDavis monthly, and we’ll continue that process (with a new president) moving forward,” he said. “That’s been going on since President McDavis became president of OU.”
Knisely said McDavis’ leadership had a strong effect on the Athens community.
“I’ve seen him speak in a passionate way about how being involved in community events can make a difference,” Knisely said.
Knisely said she hopes the next president will promote an “inclusive” community.
“I think that’s very, very important to us to continue to make that statement, that we are all part of one community, and we welcome everyone here,” she said.
Patterson said he hopes the city will continue to have a strong relationship with OU under the next president.
“I was fortunate to have had breakfast with all four of the (former presidential) candidates,” Patterson said. “Everyone seemed very receptive to continue going down the path of monthly engagements with my office as well as the MOU.”
OU President Roderick McDavis is leaving February 17. The Post looks back at his time as Ohio's president. Click this box to read the rest of the stories from this issue.