University of Akron President Scott Scarborough's talk to a swollen Akron Press Club audience of 150 at Quaker Station on Wednesday was packaged in a new format without PowerPoint and included an odd geography lesson to explain the rebranding of his school's name.
The tag of "Ohio's Polytechnic University", he said, referenced Ohio for all of the out-of-towners who don't know where Akron is on the globe. Who knew?
Working from a series of topics suggested by the audience that was heavily laced with faculty and students, he posted each with grease pencil on two white boards - and checked them off with his replies with the ease of a scripted delivery that suggested a heavy layer of Teflon.
The responses were familiar to anyone who has heard his talks around town. Yes, change is difficult when you are trying to reduce $40 million debt, he said. . And if there are critics of his administration's policies, they are the result of misunderstanding and miscommunication in what he's trying to accomplish.
Scarborough, part academic and part bank auditor with some preacherly hints of his southern Baptist background, seems untroubled by the swirl of controversy, major donor tropouts and messy rollout of his plans since arriving in July 2014 from the University of Toledo. He's glibly self-confident that he's rising to his calling and victimized by people who don't understand the job he's been asked to do. With the servile politically appointed Board of Trustees that hired him, and the Creator on his side, he's now on an assured fail-safe course.
To the question of how he has surrounded himself with a clutch of highly paid managers in his comfort zone, he responded that in order to convert UA into a national monument of higher education you faced supply and demand in recruiting the most gifted people for the job.
He summed up any missteps by his team as a natural flaw in laying out a new course of action, adding the chestnut that leaders are only mistake-free when they are not doing anything to move forward.
The pro forma speech drew only light applause when he finished.
So maybe now's the time to turn the page for some TV ads emphasizing that Akron is in Ohio. By his standards, it couldn't hurt.
P.S. Akron is in northern Ohio, just south of Cleveland.