The gray light of a winter sky illuminated Dean Tony Roark’s office as he looked over his workspace, soon to be in a state of transition come June. He leaned back in his chair for a moment, thinking through what he would need to take with him. While he mentioned his standing desk and headphones, his mind was primarily trained on the task ahead and the many changes on Boise State’s horizon.
On Nov. 29, Provost Martin Schimpf announced he is stepping down from his position, a revelation that followed shortly after the announcement of President Bob Kustra’s retirement on Nov. 15. With the soon-to-be empty position of provost, Roark, who is the current dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (COAS), was asked to fill the role while the University seeks a new permanent candidate.
“I did not have a lot of warning for it,” Roark said. “In fact, Dr. Schimpf’s announcement for his retirement was a bit of a surprise for most of us.”
While Roark explained the simultaneous loss of both Boise State’s provost and president represents a significant change for the University, he said it represented an opportunity for the new president to fully “reset the stage for the next chapter in the University’s evolution.” Schimpf also commented on the timeliness of his transition, emphasizing the idea of a new start.
“This is a good opportunity for the new president to set out a new strategic plan and to have a provost who will be here for the duration and carry that through,” Schimpf said. “We have a really strong set of deans—the strongest I’ve ever seen—so I don’t worry too much about leadership at that level. It’s a good time for someone fresh to come in with new ideas.”
However, given the amount of time it takes to find candidates for both of these executive positions, Roark said he currently doesn’t know how long he will be acting as provost.
“No one can tell me that yet—and that’s how it should be. Conceivably, the new president could come in, thank me for my service and send me out that very day,” Roark said. “There are a lot of unknowns, and I’m comfortable with any of the outcomes for me personally. I’m most interested in the larger outcome for the University.”
Given Roark’s new interim role, he selected Leslie Durham, Associate Dean of Arts and Humanities, to act as the dean for the COAS. Durham was offered the interim position shortly after Thanksgiving Break of the Fall 2017 semester, and she expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity.
“COAS is a large and diverse college that is continuously growing and changing, and that’s part of what makes this an exciting opportunity,” Durham said. “I like to be challenged, and I look forward to getting to know the work of my colleagues and our students from this different perspective.”
While Roark’s workstation will be temporarily relocated to the Provost’s Office in the Administration Building, Durham will remain at her current office.