The Northern Kentucky University Board of Regents voted unanimously to name Mr. Geoffrey S. Mearns NKU’s fifth president, effective August 1. Mearns will succeed Dr. James C. Votruba, who will retire July 31 after 15 years as NKU president.
"After a longand comprehensive national search, we feel we have found the best person in the nation to lead NKU," said Terry Mann, chair of the NKU Board of Regents. “The quality of our candidate pool and our finalists was indicative of this university’s role on the national stage. Over the past 15 years, NKU has become the model of a major metropolitan university committed to academic excellence and regional stewardship. Still, our brightest days lie ahead of us, and Geoffrey Mearns is just the person to lead us there.”
Mearns has served as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Cleveland State University since February 2010, and was dean and professor of law at Cleveland State’s Cleveland-Marshall College of Law for four and a half years prior to that.
"I am excited by the opportunities that lie before us,” Mearns said. “Northern Kentucky University is valued internally and externally as an outstanding academic institution that is an integral part of its community. There is a great deal of pride from the faculty, staff, students, alumni and the region about how far the university has come and where it is going.”
As provost, Mearns oversees eight academic deans and five vice provosts. He supervises various academic support functions such as the library; student advising and student services; and faculty recruitment and retention, promotion and tenure. Cleveland State is a public university with more than 16,000 students.
An avid runner who competed at Yale University and qualified for the 1984 Olympic trials in the marathon, Mearns is no stranger to Greater Cincinnati. He said visiting NKU last week brought back fond memories of running the hills on both sides of the Ohio River when he attended Walnut Hills High School. He and wife Jennifer ran the bridges during their visit last week, and Mearns said he looks forward to spanning them regularly when he arrives.
“NKU’s location in a major metropolitan region is one of its greatest assets,” he said. “This region has so much to offer prospective students and faculty from around the commonwealth and across the country. Great things are happening in the region, and our whole family looks forward to our move to northern Kentucky.”
President Votruba said Mearns will be a natural fit. “Geoff Mearns’ values, professional experience and breadth of understanding of the role NKU plays in the lives of our students and our region make him ideally suited for this leadership role,” Votruba said. “Under his leadership, I have no doubt that NKU will continue its momentum.”
During his tenure as dean of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Mearns was actively engaged in fundraising for the college, helping to enhance its scholarship pool and overseeing an $8.8 million renovation of the law building. Under his leadership, alumni and private giving increased substantially and the quality and diversity of the law school’s class improved. He also oversaw continual improvement in the school’s bar passage rates. At the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Mearns taught complex federal criminal investigations and prosecutions, criminal law and white collar crime. He previously taught at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law and New York Law School.
Prior to joining Cleveland State, Geoff was a practicing lawyer for more than 15 years, including serving as a federal prosecutor in the United States Department of Justice.
His record of community service includes serving on several judicial screening committees and serving as a trustee for several Cleveland agencies. He was also a member of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Identifying the Needs of the Forensic Science Community. Mearns has written numerous criminal justice articles.
Mearns earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Yale University in 1981 and a juris doctor from the University of Virginia in 1987. After graduating from law school, he clerked for the Hon. Boyce F. Martin, Jr., of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Louisville.
He and Jennifer currently live in Shaker Heights, Ohio, with their five children.