Zingg: Things are looking up

Chico State University President Paul Zingg surveyed the standing-room-only crowd at the Harlen Adams Theater and offered up a self-deprecating joke: “What are you all here for?”

It was his first convocation speech to the campus community, and in the Aug. 19 address he gave an upbeat spin to both the state budget and university enrollment, welcomed new employees and said that overall “there are many good reasons to be positive.”

He offered up a few revelations, including the extension of the contract of Jim Moon, the interim vice president for student affairs, for another two years so a search could be launched next year. Zingg confirmed that, after a year of thinking it over, he will seek to hire a chief advancement officer to launch a fund-raising campaign. Already, Bob Alber is serving as associate vice president for advancement. And, Zingg mentioned, retired President Manuel Esteban has volunteered to help build partnerships.

Zingg said that in the months since he arrived in Chico, he’s been amazed by what he calls “the Chico way"—everything from large numbers of faculty showing up for commencement to the perception of public service in the form of education as a “privilege.”

Zingg also had the inside track to something that was announced the following day: U.S. News and World Report had again ranked Chico State No. 3 among public universities in the West that offer both undergraduate and master’s programs, but not many doctoral programs.

He announced a gift of $2 million from the late emeritus geography professor David Lantis and his wife, Helen, a former librarian in Chico schools. The money will fund the largest ever endowment for a position, and it will go toward a chairperson of the university’s choosing. “It is the best kind of gift: lots of vision and lots of discretion,” Zingg said.

There was little controversy embedded in Zingg’s address, but he did say that, contrary to some people’s desires, he’ll push for adding signs, interpretive paths and other enhancements around the creeks rather than alter a campus bridge with a “superstructure” intended to inspire respect for different people and cultures.

One of Zingg’s pet projects is to pay special attention to first-year students and their needs.

Another change will be that the Campus Planning Committee will now report directly to the president.

The only other speaker was Associated Students President Adam Dondro, who praised university administration for its commitment to "shared governance," which is unheard of at many schools. He also thanked faculty members and staff for "working your butts off."