Wim Wiewel, Portland State University's new president with the funny name (pronounced "Vim Vievel"), clearly did his homework this summer: On his first official day of work today, he rode his bike to campus and—for good measure—brought Mayor-elect Sam "Publicity Magnet" Adams along.
Arriving at the reception to honor Wiewel's first day (and PR prowess), Wiewel looked fit in pleated slacks and lime green PSU cycling jersey. Adams' blue necktie, rolled cuffs, and yellow bowling-ball helmet fused in good-humored irony. The photo op was not threatened by sweat or panting, thanks to a mostly-downhill coast from the surrounding hills, where Wiewel resides.
Adams used the occasion to toot his predictable horn, lauding Portland's "platinum" certification
as a premier bike-friendly city. He said he plans to push beyond platinum (the highest rating used in the United States), toward a "European standard of bicycle infrastructure." Wiewel hails from Amsterdam—an iconic bike-oriented city—but has worked in the United States since the 1970s, building an impressive set of urban planning and sustainability credentials.
"Wim is exactly what this school needs," said student Owen Smith, 24. "He understands the importance of a large, respectable research institution in the heart of Portland. He wants to be here."
Which is nice. Dan Bernstine presided over PSU for 10 years and raised a great deal of money, but never seemed to embrace his public role
. Bernstine departed last year with little applause, leaving Professor Michael Reardon to hold the reins during the university's year-long search for a new president. PSU staff and students are no doubt hungering for a leader with some charisma and enthusiasm, traits that Wiewel appears to possess in spades.
(He's no slouch of a fundraiser, either.
Wiewel sees the city as a resource for the school, and the school as a resource for the city. At the University of Illinois in Chicago, he helped establish the Great Cities Institute, which seeks to foster close relationships between schools and their cities. Wiewel identifies PSU's large size as a distinguishing asset. "Its impact can be much greater," he said with confidence.
Wiewel will meet with students, faculty, and area business people for the rest of the day. "Today is mostly fun and symbolic, but then we're gonna get serious," he said "We will definitely be making some messes."
And the ride home will be sweaty.