As a student and later as an educator, Dr. Michael V. Drake looked forward to the first day of school and meeting people.
It was no different for his first day as the 15th president of The Ohio State University.
Drake ascended the stairs of Bricker Hall the morning of June 30 and was greeted by nearly 100 people in the lobby outside of the Office of the President. Students, faculty and staff who work in the building extended a warm welcome to Drake, who most recently served as chancellor of the University of California, Irvine.
“This is an iconic university,” he said, adding that he is eager to “take off the jacket and roll up the sleeves.”
In addition to spending time with students, faculty and staff, Drake held a cabinet meeting and also met with members of Ohio State’s Board of Trustees on his first day.
In the afternoon, he stood alongside city leaders, Rep. Joyce Beatty and Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, for the announcement of a $30 million federal grant that will provide housing, job training, education and support services on Columbus’ Near East Side.
While the hundreds of community members attending the announcement applauded the news, Drake reminded them that this celebration would not be as meaningful as those to come later.
“The real celebration will come to the improvements of the lives of this community as we work together to make this the true vision we all see,” he said.
Ohio State is a member of Partners Achieving Community Transformation, a partnership created in 2010 revitalize the historic Near East Side neighborhood in five core areas: jobs and economic impact; safe, vibrant and accessible neighborhoods; health and wellness; education; and housing. As part of this effort, last month Ohio State and Columbus City Schools announced a Health Sciences Academies initiative to provide increased educational opportunities in the community.
The Near East Side developed late in the 19th century along the streetcar lines running along Broad Street, Long Street and Mount Vernon Avenue. Once rich in jobs, families and culture for 63,000 people, the neighborhood has dwindled to 16,000 residents – most of whom are living in poverty, explained Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman.
He, Beatty and Donovan all spoke of how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had stopped in the community many times to talk about equality. Drake talked about King’s message of equality 50 years ago and the 124-year-old Morrill Land-Grant Act that creates opportunities for Ohio State to better surrounding regions.
“I was thinking of the dream that (King) brought to all of us, the promise that he brought to all of us, the opportunity that he created for all of us to do better by working together as communities and people,” he said. “Our organic act is formulated around being here, for and with the people, to make this a better place to live.”