Ohio University President Hugh Sherman meets with local media on Thursday, July 8, 2021, for a question-and-answer session to discuss priorities and concerns for the upcoming school year.

Ohio University President Hugh Sherman meets with local media on Thursday, July 8, 2021, for a question-and-answer session to discuss priorities and concerns for the upcoming school year.

August 10, 2021

Sherman: Past, Present, Future

OU President Hugh Sherman wants to lay foundation for institution’s future

By Abby Neff | For The Post

When President Hugh Sherman isn’t working, he’s working out.

“I like to exercise, so I am a fanatical exerciser,” he said.

Sherman said he can be found hiking up by The Ridges and cycling on the road or the bike path about four days a week.

When he’s not on the trail, he’s in his office. Books and picture frames line his shelves. Small stacks of paperwork lie neatly on his desk. An Ohio University coffee mug rests on an OU insignia-shaped coaster.

“I’m very organized,” he said as he gestured towards a notepad on his desk. Sherman said he keeps lists of daily tasks, as well as goals for the future.

Sherman described himself as “extremely disciplined.”

The OU Board of Trustees appointed Sherman as the 22nd president of OU on May 27, according to a previous Post report. Before that, he served as the dean of OU’s College of Business and worked as the Corlett Chair of Strategy and Senior Economic Policy Fellow in the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service from 2007 to 2021.

He also served as the assistant dean and director of graduate programs in the College of Business, was the chair of the management department and served as an assistant to university provost for strategic planning.

Sherman said he is a straight-forward individual and businessman.

“I think I’m a pretty straight shooter, open and honest,” he said.

As president, Sherman said he plans to involve members of faculty by communicating with them constantly. Sherman said he meets with faculty senate executives on a regular basis and attends faculty senate meetings. He served as a member of the executive committee of the university faculty senate in 2004.

According to a previous Post report, the OU Board of Trustees did not include faculty senate in the process to select Sherman as the 22nd president, despite the senate’s role of advising presidential appointments in the past.

“I want them to be comfortable with the directions that we’re going, but some of the issues the university faces are difficult issues,” he said. “From my perspective, I feel a responsibility to try and move everybody forward to deal with the issues we have to deal with.”

He explained how the culture of business differs in some ways from the culture of higher education and academics. People working in the business world are data-driven and are not afraid to disagree with one another.

“And then afterwards, you go out and you have a beer,” he said.

Alternatively, Sherman said in higher education and academia, the relationships that are built tend to be more “consensual.”

“You’re working hard to establish people to agree with the direction that you’re trying to move, and I would suggest that in many different universities, they tend to take it more personal when you disagree,” he explained. “You have to be a lot more careful about trying to get people to agree and move forward in a direction that you think is important.”

Sherman was exposed to business culture at a young age. His father worked as a corporate executive, causing his family to move frequently. They lived in cities up and down the East Coast and eventually moved to Canada, where he studied economics at the University of Guelph in Ontario.

He said he paid much less for tuition per semester than the fees students pay now.

“I was able to work part time and pay for my entire undergraduate education,” he said. “That’s an issue today, how expensive college is.”

After graduation, Sherman moved to Boston to work for the city’s department of transportation. He got a master’s in business administration at Northeastern University.

Sherman found a new job in Pennsylvania as the vice president of marketing for the Swatch Watch Corporation, a watch company founded in Sweden.

“Then, I gave that up. I mean, I kind of got burnt out after about 15 years,” he said.

So, Sherman went back to school and earned his doctorate in business strategy at Temple University in Philadelphia. In 1984, he founded International Footwear, a company that operated factory outlet shoe stores across the East Coast.

In 1995, Sherman traveled to Athens, Ohio, where he was hired as an assistant professor of management at OU.

“I was a faculty member … I’ve been here for 25 years, so I went through that whole cycle of coming in as an assistant professor and being promoted to associate and then to full,” he said.

Sherman said OU has to have a culture that is welcoming and inclusive, and he wants to make himself available for students.

In the past several years, some student and faculty organizations have highlighted their experience as nonwhite individuals at OU, a predominantly white institution. In 2020, the OU chapter of the Association of American University Professors and the OU Black Faculty Association criticized the university for not hiring enough diverse faculty through both a letter and a study, according to a previous Post report. Nonwhite students have carved their own spaces by creating organizations like the Asian American and Pacific Islander Student Union (AAPISU) and the Scripps Latinx Network, as well as podcasts like Melanin in the Media.

“I have – on purpose – said that I don’t want to have a busy travel schedule for September and October because I want to be really present on the campus,” he said. “I want to go visit different student groups and so forth. And hear what they say.”

One person that Sherman said has been valuable during his transition into office is Duane Nellis, the 21st president of OU. Nellis announced he was going to resign on May 13 and end his presidential term two years early. Nellis’ administration received years of criticism about their handling of the budget crisis and faculty cuts before and during the coronavirus pandemic.

“President Nellis is a very gracious individual,” Sherman said. “I’ve enjoyed working with him. I would say he sends me a text message every two or three days just asking if he can be helpful.”

Despite Sherman only serving as president for two years, he said he wants to do what he believes is important for OU to be successful even after his presidency.

“I don’t have something I want to do subsequent to this. I’ve spent 25 years here,” Sherman said. “ I’m not going to waste time.”

AUTHOR: Abby Neff
EDITOR: Taylor Burnette
COPY EDITOR: Anna Garnai