This story is part of a series of specially designed stories that represents some of the best journalism The Post has to offer. Check out the rest of the special projects here.
In his past university presidencies, Ohio University President Duane Nellis has always held strong ties with city administrations — a tradition he hopes to continue at OU.
Nellis said a good relationship with the City of Athens is vital for OU’s success.
“Neither Ohio University nor the City of Athens could survive without the other,” Nellis said. “It is in both our best interests to work well with one another, and we do.”
Nellis was named businessperson of the year for 2015 by the Chamber of Commerce in Lubbock, Texas, which he said shows his “visibility in the community and my commitment to work closely with community leader.” At the time, Nellis was the president of Texas Tech University in Lubbock.
Athens Mayor Steve Patterson said he and Nellis met several times, both formally and informally, to discuss OU’s relationship with Athens. Patterson said he and Nellis are continuing a tradition that began between former Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl and former OU President Roderick McDavis.
Meagan Hall | FILE
Athens Mayor Steve Patterson (left) greets Duane Nellis (right) at the Athens community member breakfast on Monday, June 12th.
“These meetings that we've had have all been good, strong meetings looking at ways to benefit our community as a whole,” Patterson said. “The relationship between the city and the university is better than it's ever been.”
Patterson said OU’s current collaborations, like the Memorandum of Understanding, a document outlining the relationship between Athens and the university, will remain in place, but adding new collaborations, like rethinking land usage and affordable housing, is possible in the future.
“I've seen the relationship between Ohio University and the city of Athens get stronger. It's really been encouraging with President Nellis coming on that it's getting even stronger.”Steve Patterson, mayor of Athens
Athens City Council President Chris Knisley said an affordable housing report — the result of work between Councilwoman Michele Papai, D-3rd Ward, and Steve Golding, senior vice president for strae — discussed how OU and Athens could benefit from more affordable housing, as well as how to approach the subject.
“(Papai and Golding) worked with a committee to produce a report on affordable housing in the community,” Knisley said. “One of the things that came about was how do we look at our neighborhoods and make sure that they're vital areas, make sure we've got good student housing and how we can coordinate that kind of approach.”
Patterson, who was a faculty member at OU before becoming a councilman and then mayor, said he’s seen the relationship between Athens and OU strengthen during his time in Athens.
“This is something that I've seen over the course of my tenure when I was faculty at OU, as well as being on city council for four years and now being the mayor,” Patterson said. “I've seen the relationship between Ohio University and the city of Athens get stronger. It's really been encouraging with President Nellis coming on that it's getting even stronger.”
Nellis said Athens isn’t the only city he’s hoping to build a strong relationship with — he hopes to strengthen ties between OU and every regional campus city as well.
“I intend to work with government officials and community leaders in all the locations Ohio University has a physical presence: Athens, Zanesville, Dublin, Cleveland, Ironton, Portsmouth, Lancaster, Chillicothe, St. Clairsville and Pickerington,” Nellis said. “I have already begun to cultivate those relationships the last few months; I want to be a very engaged leader.”