12 Years at KU: Cevallos talks about his presidency and KU's future

Patriot photo by Lisa Mitchell Kutztown University President F. Javier Cevallos stands in College Hill Memorial Grove Jan. 31.
Patriot photo by Lisa Mitchell Kutztown University President F. Javier Cevallos stands in College Hill Memorial Grove Jan. 31.

Kutztown University President F. Javier Cevallos looks back at his almost 12 years at the University’s helm, as he prepares to leave at the end of the spring semester.

Cevallos will be president of Framingham State University starting in July.

His Roots

Born in Ecuador, his mother was from Spain and his father from Ecuador and they moved to Puerto Rico where Cevallos graduated high school and the University of Puerto Rico and later the University of Illinois. Cevallos moved to Main in 1981 where he met his wife. While living in Massachusetts for 18 years, he was promoted to full professor of Latin American Literature at the University of Massachusetts. He became interested in administration, which started him on his path to becoming president at Kutztown University.

Cevallos served on the UMass Faculty Senate and later worked in the Provost Office. He participated in a Fellowship at Westley University, Conn., and returned to UMass to become Vice Chair of Student Affairs. Four years later, he found the opportunity to become KU President.

“I was very interested in moving to an institution like Kutztown, a teaching institution,” said Cevallos, about what brought him to KU.

“There’s a lot of good things here in Kutztown.” He will miss walking up and down Main Street, talking with people, and being able to walk everywhere. “The location is ideal,” close to Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, Md., and Washington, D.C.

Cevallos was impressed by the friendliness of the people. “Everybody was genuinely friendly.”

Lessons Learned

“Probably the most important lesson that I have learned over all these years, it doesn’t matter how many times you say something or how effectively you think you are communicating, it’s never enough. You have to do that over and over. ... You really have to make sure that you communicate and do that on a consistent basis. We all have very short span memories, we forget things quickly.”

Leaving a Legacy

When asked what impression he hopes to leave behind, he responded that he is proud of the diversity of the student population, the way that it has changed.

“We have students that are really starting to reflect the rich diversity of the area that we live in ... It’s cultural, religious, sexual orientation... that great diversity of point of view and lifestyles and ways of being. I think that makes it a better institution.”

He is also proud of the strengthening of KU’s academic programs, many of which have earned accreditation, including social work, music, art and business. “And investing in academic resources.”

“Thirdly, I’m really proud of the campus. The campus has changed. I think it is a beautiful campus,” which he said is the result of the hard work of everyone in the administration, finance and even faculty who helped with design and building plans.

He is also happy about the good relationships between Kutztown and the University. “We communicate a lot. That kind of communication makes for a very inviting community and makes it a nice place to raise a family and to work.”

Fondest Memories at KU

Highlights include the opportunity to meet some of the speakers of the Decision Makers Forum, like Colin Powell. “It’s just a unique opportunity.”

Other highlights are some of the student activities. “When students do wonderful things in academics, art or sports is really great.” KU winning the football championship, the success of the Rugby team, softball getting all the way to the two of the final games last year, naming a few. Jazz ensembles by students that sound like professionals are “really great memories.”

Also, since they arrived in town with two young children, they met a lot of people in the community as well. “We made a lot of friends in town. We have a lot of good memories of not only the campus but also the town itself.”

Looking Forward

“My impression is that this is an institution that is poised to continue to develop in wonderful ways,” said Cevallos. “We have great faculty really committed to the students. We have great students. We have an incredibly dedicated staff. You just walk around the campus and see how nice it looks and how clean it is, you can tell the pride that people have working here.”

“It’s really a place that’s moving forward. I’m really happy to have been part of it,” he said. “I also feel it is important for the institution to have new ideas and somebody else to move it forward.”

Cevallos believes there is a cycle to the presidency and 12 years is reaching that level of time to move on. “I’m going to miss the people the most,” said Cevallos, who wishes to keep in touch. “We have a lot made a lot of friends.”

He is looking forward to being rejuvenated by new challenges and new people cultures at Framingham State University, “which is exciting.”

“For Kutztown, It’s nice to have a different perspective, somebody who’s going to do different things. I think it works well for both sides. It’s a normal cycle.”

His message to the community is simple. “Thank you.”

“It has been a wonderful experience. The community made us feel very welcome, not only on campus but the community at large.” “We are really grateful and we were fortunate that we have been able to be here for 12 years.”

About the Author

Lisa Mitchell

Lisa Mitchell is the editor of The Kutztown Patriot and Managing Editor of Berks-Mont Newspapers. Reach the author at lmitchell@berksmontnews.com or follow Lisa on Twitter: @kutztownpatriot.