A Bowling Green State University professor who died earlier this week was recognized by the university’s president

Rodney Rogers began his presidential address to the Board of Trustees Friday with a recognition of the passing of Neocles Leontis, who was in a fatal car accident on Tuesday.

Leontis was a professor in the chemistry department.

“He was an incredible researcher and educator,” Rogers said. “Beyond the classroom and lab he was a leader. He served as chair of our Faculty Senate. He held an at-large seat on the city council here in the City of Bowling Green, since 2019. If you had a chance to meet him, Neocles was relentless, he was very passionate about many things, including sustainability initiatives. He was always working very hard and pushing us forward to achieve excellence.”

Rogers said he received more than $7 million in grants.

From the grants report released for this meeting, Leontis and Craig Zirbel this year were awarded $1,497,713 from the National Institutes of Health, to be distributed over four years, to continue development of a “Nucleic Acid Knowledge Base.” The work was being done in collaboration with the Nucleic Acid Database at Rutgers University.

The coronavirus pandemic figured prominently, from beginning to end, in a fully virtual trustee meeting.

Two resolutions were passed directly related to the pandemic, one showing appreciation to faculty and staff and a second extending authorization for extended furloughs.

“We have found a way forward and what stands in the way becomes a way. We have found a way forward and we are not through this yet, so let’s be clear we have more work to do. I am just so confident in our future because of the strong leadership of our trustees, but also because of a community faculty, staff, students community members … are focused on public education, which is an essential part of our society and, certainly, our community,” said President Rodney Rogers.

His statement followed a unanimously-supported resolution of appreciation for the efforts of faculty and staff. The resolution noted how the employees “significantly adjusting their work in the best interest of public health — adapting course delivery, research activities or working remotely to provide students with a high-quality educational experience.”

It also noted the additional efforts to address the mental health needs of students.

Trustee George Miller, who is the president and CEO of Loretto Hospital in Chicago, spoke in support of the resolution and the efforts made at BGSU to hold back the disease. He compared the pandemic to the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic.

“I have a son whose senior year was wiped out because the school closed because of COVID and the fact that we are still here speaks loudly of the leadership of the president, faculty and staff,” Miller said. “Still today, in this country there are still those who believe that we don’t have to do all those things to protect each other by wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and washing our hands, all on a continuous basis. Had we done so as a country, we would have saved a hundred thousand lives, real live people. Hopefully, in 2021, we will move collectively together as one nation to eradicate this disease. I have seen, live and in color, everyday people who suffer from this dreaded disease. It’s real.”

In another nod to COVID-19, the Extended Furlough Plan was extended through 2021.

It was first approved in April for 2020.

“This is only to give flexibility, as more of a housekeeping matter. We want to underscore to anyone listening, we intend to open fully. We intend, and our numbers reflect that we are going to have a robust university class setup and we have no plans to be able to use this extended furlough ability. We just want to underscore that it’s more an efficiency question. We do not anticipate ever having to use it. We hope,” said trustee Chair Betty Montgomery.

Furloughs were scheduled to begin July 1, and were then rescinded a week later. The intent was to save the university approximately $3.1 million in fiscal year 2021, as part of a total package of cuts totaling $13.5 million that included the laying off of 119 employees.

Rogers also noted that Friday was the last day of final exams and that today there would be a Fall 2020 virtual celebration of 1,024 graduates, with a face-to-face commencement to be announced at a later date.

A new Bachelor of Science in Nursing was approved by trustees. With that approval there will be a phasing out of the current BGSU/University of Toledo Nursing Consortium.

The dual degree program with Mercy College will be continued. While that degree sends junior and senior students to Mercy College, the new BGSU BSN students will stay on the main campus.

A new nursing skills laboratory is being built in Central Hall, which is formerly the site of the Business Administration Building. All of the nursing courses will be held there.

Also approved was a name change for the Bachelor of Science in Apparel Merchandising and Product Development to the Bachelor of Science in Fashion Merchandising and Product Development. The name change is expected to increase student enrollment. Currently, there are approximately 100 students enrolled.

In response to a question from Trustee Howard Traul III, Rogers called it “one of the older degree programs, over a variety of iterations.”

Trustees also approved:

• The Fiscal Year 20 Efficiency Report

• The naming of the Mucciarone and Moore Connection Corner within the Robert W. and Patricia A. Maurer Center

• An Honorary Doctor of Public Service degree to Jo Ann Davidson, the first woman to serve as Ohio Speaker of the House

• The College Completion Report

• Personnel changes since Sept. 25

• Changes to Trustee Bylaw Amendments

• An addition of various trustee committee charters.

Trustee Richard Ross was absent, but excused, from the meeting.