COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State hasn't always gotten enough credit for the "98 percent" of what it does outside of athletics, the university's new president said Wednesday as he pledged to raise all the features of the school's profile.
Michael Drake, the former University of California-Irvine chancellor, said he would use Ohio State's success in sports as a way to draw attention to what the university does well in other areas — from cancer research to the performing arts.
"We haven't gotten as much credit or as much focus on some of the myriad other things we do, the other 98 percent of our enterprise," Drake said in an interview with reporters in his campus office, its walls still bare following his arrival last week.
Drake, whose father played college football in the 1930s, said he isn't talking about diminishing what the university does athletically.
"I plan on doing everything we can to do even better on the athletics side, but to make sure that people have a chance to pay attention to the other things that we're doing as well, and to continue to strengthen those," he said.
Drake, 63, an ophthalmologist, was chosen as Ohio State's 15th president and first black leader in January, ending a seven-month search. He replaces Gordon Gee, who retired last year after remarks he made jabbing Roman Catholics and Southeastern Conference schools became public.
Gee is now president at West Virginia University, a post he held more than 30 years earlier.
Drake will make about $1 million annually, or about half Gee's compensation.
Drake promised to do everything he can to make the university the best possible value for students, including affordability, availability of classes and minimizing student debt.
On other subjects, Drake made these pronouncements:
—Downplayed support for a movement to unionize college athletes: The collegiate model of athletics "brings great value to the educational experience of those who are able to participate in it and then to the culture and the connectedness and the sense of family that we have as a university."
—Argued that the university's historic mission as a land-grant institution is compatible with boosting its stature outside of Ohio: "In competing for being the best that we can be, the natural outcome of that would be to produce things that have international impact, which I think is directly connected to the local impact that we do here. I find it all tied together, and seamless."
—Said he hopes to teach at Ohio State as he has done elsewhere throughout his career: "I've always found that the ability to be involved in students kept me relevant and kept me young, and it was something that was a great joy."
—Embraced fundraising as an investment in the future: "Our job at the university is to show why this is the place where your support will make the most difference to the most people."
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.