For the last 10 years, Jo Ann Gora has made her presence known throughout the Ball State University campus by spearheading massive construction and renovation projects and pushing an education system that requires students to immerse themselves in the world around them. Though Gora received some criticism during her first months in Muncie, that due to the secrecy in which she was brought in, she quickly won over many stakeholders by making herself highly visible and more than willing to meet with students and faculty alike.
In tribute to her wonderfully rounded decade of hits at Ball State, here are 10 facts about Jo Ann Gora that you may not have known:
1. Her most well-known moniker campuswide is “JoGo.”
How did she get this name? No one knows for sure. Most say it’s because she is constantly on the go and visiting with students; others might attribute it to the common “J.Lo”-esque shortening of her legal name. In an interview with The Ball State Daily News, she said she didn’t mind the nickname considering all the others that could be used.
2. She was the first female president of a public university in Indiana.
Gora paved the way for women at colleges and universities statewide during her time at the helm of Ball State, including Sue DeWine at Hanover College, Jo Young Switzer at Manchester University, Frances A. Cordova at Purdue University, and Beverley Pitts at the University of Indianapolis, formerly a Ball State provost and vice president for academic affairs who was Ball State’s acting president until Gora arrived. Each has retired, announced her retirement, or completed her term in the past two years.
3. Her office didn’t have a single picture of her family.
What did she keep in there? Gora also talked to Ball State’s student paper about lining her workspace were pictures of her with recognizable people—the also-retiring David Letterman, for one—and mementos of things she received from the university.
4. She has been a leader on more than $520 million in construction since 2004.
Since then, she has given practically the entire campus a facelift, expanded its borders, and added new facilities.
5. She helped initiate the largest closed geothermal program in the United States.
Scheduled to be complete in 2015, Gora helped launch Ball State’s geothermal program, which will harness energy from deep within the Earth for use in powering the campus. This shift will drastically reduce Ball State’s carbon footprint by getting rid of its coal-operated power station, and it remains one of Gora’s most subtly powerful acts as president.
6. One of her first academic feats was the push for immersive learning.
Since 2004, Ball State has put on more than 1,250 immersion projects. These projects have sent students out from the campus to places ranging near (the Muncie community) and far (Hong Kong and Russia).
7. Gora was given a key to Muncie.
The classic “town and gown” dichotomy of some higher-education institutions and their surrounding communities was not a notion Gora favored. She received this honor from Muncie mayor Dennis Tyler for contributions revolving around immersive learning and getting students more involved with the community.
8. In 2005, she was awarded the Sagamore of the Wabash.
The Sagamore is Indiana’s highest civilian honor and is given to those who have contributed to Hoosier heritage. Others who have been awarded the Sagamore include politicians, astronauts, and musicians.
9. Fifty-four Ball State programs have been nationally recognized since 2007.
Some of the programs recognized are architecture, journalism, telecommunications, business administration, education leadership, entrepreneurship, and insurance and risk management.
10. Ball State’s recreation center was named for her.
As one of the many new buildings constructed during Gora’s presidency, a rec complex was formally renamed the (deep breath) Jo Ann Gora Student Recreation and Wellness Center.