New DePauw president looking to leave his mark on community

Thursday, March 10, 2016

As zero hour neared for the DePauw University Board of Trustees to put an official stamp of approval on the 20th president in the storied history of the college Monday afternoon, some behind-the-scene posturing was evolving.

The news of Mark McCoy's ascendancy from dean of the School of Music to president of the university would be embargoed for news media release until 7:45 p.m. with DPU alumni being informed via email blast just prior -- a 21st-century nod to getting the word out collectively and conveniently. As soon as that occurred, we planned to drop said release on our website and tweet out 140 characters of content to the world.

Awaiting that press release and other information from DePauw media relations director Ken Owen, we managed to rough out a couple questions for DePauw's new head honcho. Popping into our head were queries like: What are your first impressions of Greencastle? What interested you in DePauw in the first place? Do you have any prior connection with the university? Have you ever eaten a garlic cheeseburger?

OK, so I made that last one up.

But you get the picture, we were trying to find a way to localize a conversation with what seemed almost certain to be an academic type coming in from the East Coast or some other ivy-covered walls for a couple-year stop before moving on to bigger and better things.

As the email from Owen arrived, I grabbed the link to his announcement story and noted the accompanying phone number provided for contacting the new president since we had been promised a one-on-one interview once everything was official that evening.

List of questions at my side, I saw the phone number was of the 658 variety. So I'm thinking, OK, well, the new president must be in town, that's a local number.

As I am starting to dial, the link to the story opens up and I instantly see the headline: "Mark McCoy is named 20th president of DePauw University."

The phone is ringing, I'm smiling, and yes, the Mark McCoy now on the other end of the landline is the Mark McCoy we have come to know from various "communiversity" interactions over the past few years.

With a laugh, all I can muster to say when I hear his voice is, "Well, I didn't see that coming" as I flip my list of questions over my shoulder.

"How about that?" McCoy responds.

Yea, how about that.

He's one of us.

Let me say that again, one of us. Wow!

McCoy lives in Greencastle and has for five years. His wife Lisa teaches at Tzouanakis. His triplet daughters go to school alongside the twin sons of one of our advertising reps. I've seen him at holiday events, public occasions and Walmart.

By all accounts, the McCoys love it here and didn't want to leave. Certainly he was much sought after by larger institutions for his music school resume -- if not a presidency -- what with the success McCoy has had in turning the School of Music into a community treasure. Think Music on the Square (M2), the Putnam County Strings Program, innumerable musical events at the Green Center from the Holiday Gala to the Global Music Initiative to Yo-Yo Ma visiting to cut the ceremonial ribbon on the downtown facility (funny side note: Ma didn't know the giant Chamber of Commerce scissors wouldn't actually cut it).

Sure, the DePauw School of Music -- with the likes of Claude Cymerman, Orcenith Smith, Randy Salman, Sandy Williams, Carla Edwards, Eric Edberg et al -- was world class before the new dean arrived but it's the Real McCoy now. He's refocused it from the world at large to our world.

Yep, this week the big old world of academia became the proverbial "small world" after all.

And all the while he's made us in Greencastle comfortably feel part of it -- from the three-segment "Wine and Opera" series last fall to this spring's upcoming "Barbecue, Bourbon and Blues," McCoy has seen to it the community has been exposed to the riches DePauw has to offer as well. He's been the Timothy Ubben of the School of Music -- sans the billion-dollar portfolio.

The first time I heard McCoy voice his dead-on "communiversity" term, linking community and university as one, I was impressed not just by the wordplay but that it was obvious he embodies what the term conveys.

And that hasn't been lost on community leaders. Tuesday night City Councilman Dave Murray took a couple moments during the monthly meeting to express his excitement that McCoy is "somebody who gets it," adding that for the Greencastle/Putnam County community his appointment is "good news for us."

It was also apparent in observing the reception line Tuesday afternoon at the Green Center, where community leaders and local residents lined up right alongside DePauw faculty and staff to shake the new president's hand and wish him well. There haven't been that many smiles in one place on campus since the Monon Bell last called Greencastle home.

"Be heard" is the motto McCoy has bestowed upon the School of Music, noted Board of Trustees Chairman Marshall Reavis in introducing the new president to what could only be described as a smilingly adoring crowd that afternoon in the Great Hall.

There's no doubt Mark McCoy certainly will be heard as president of DePauw and leave his mark as the communicator of communiversity.

The first thing he told the Green Center audience was how he had sent a text to Reavis as soon as official action was taken on his new position Monday afternoon.

McCoy's text to Reavis read: "Let's do good things."

Reavis responded in kind with: "Let's do great things."

And McCoy was ready to expand on that great notion.

"Let's do good things greatly," he replied.

Yea, and he's one of us, too ...