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Welcome, Jem Spectar - March 23, 2007

The Tribune-Democrat

Published: March 23, 2007

Jem Spectar, a native of Cameroon, west-central Africa, has been named the fifth president of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.

Although he doesn’t officially take over until July 1, we welcome him to our community and wish him luck and success.

He will succeed a retiring Albert Etheridge, who overall has served the Richland Township campus well for the past 13 years.

Spectar, who came to the United States as a college student, brings with him an impressive array of degrees, including a doctorate in political science and a Juris Doctor – yes, he’s also a lawyer.

Selecting Spectar was no easy task. The lengthy interview process began last summer and attracted what one Pitt-Oakland official said was “a very impressive group” of candidates from throughout the nation. Initial indications, at least, reveal widespread satisfaction that Pitt-Johnstown has made an excellent choice. Certainly, time will tell.

Administrators, faculty, staff and students volunteered many hours interviewing, escorting and researching the presidential hopefuls and they deserve much praise and the community’s thanks.

In a brief interview with The Tribune-Democrat, Spectar says he has no agenda for immediate changes: “I’m interested in listening to campus constituencies to get an understanding of the needs and concerns before (launching) any initiatives.”

That’s a wise and proven approach.

However, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have ideas. Richard Ulsh, president of the Pitt-Johnstown Faculty Senate, confirmed that the incoming president had done his homework and came for the interview process armed with a proposed seven-year development plan.

We urge him to quickly share that plan with the entire college and the community, both of whom stand ready to offer feedback and support.

He also impressed Joe Teets, president of the University Student Senate, who described Spectar as someone open to student ideas.

We will join leaders on campus and in the community in monitoring Spectar’s honeymoon months, to witness his strength and desire to address several areas, including:

Overall communications on campus and between the campus and community can and must be improved.

An already impressive engineering division needs to be made even stronger.

We would like to see tensions between Pitt-Oakland and Pitt-Johnstown eased even further, with a bigger piece of the financial pie coming to Johnstown.

Above all, we expect he’ll work hard to further advance Etheridge’s admirable strides in making Pitt-Johnstown one of the top-ranked academic schools with one of the safest campuses in the Northeast.

Spectar joins a top-notch university with highly motivated faculty and students. We wish him and the university well.

Last Reviewed: August 20, 2007