New Temple president Neil Theobald has high hopes for the university

New Temple president Neil Theobald barbecues for students at a recent event. Charles Mostoller/Metro
New Temple president Neil Theobald barbecues for students at a recent event. Charles Mostoller/Metro

Neil Theobald brought his fourth child to school.

His three actual kids are raised, so it’s just he and his wife who moved to Philadelphia.

“But now I have no room for this,” he said, pointing to the grill. “My fourth child was left out, because my wife kicked him out of the house.”

The grill didn’t fit in the Theobald’s new living room with his wife, Sheona’s, new couch.

“Our fourth child was evicted,” he said smiling. “He’s been in the basement, and now he’s finally out.”

In Founders Garden just off 13th Street on Temple University’s North Philadelphia campus, the new Temple President cooked on his fourth child, the grill, for the student body of his new university last week.

Theobald, a Midwestern guy, is transitioning from the rural country to the condensed urban enclave.

“I couldn’t see a neighbor, you could not see a house from my house,” said Theobald, who moved to Rittenhouse Square when he took the job with Temple. “And here I look out my window and it’s very clear to me that I’m not in Wilmington, Indiana anymore.”

Theobald succeeded Ann Weaver Hart, who left Temple to serve as the University of Arizona president.

Theobald speaks with students at a cookout at Temple University. Charles Mostoller/Metro
Theobald speaks with students at a cookout at Temple University. Charles Mostoller/Metro

Theobald is bringing a stringent education requirement to Temple. He raised the score of incoming freshmen at Indiana University of Bloomington and raised money for undergraduate scholarships. He said he wants to translate this to Temple. He wants higher SAT scores.

“Student debt is a huge problem,” he said, adding that Temple needs to remain affordable.

He said the Temple 20/20 plan, which was the university’s guide to physical development, was pretty much finished.

The academic aspect of Temple are as important as the physical development of the campus.

“There’s really three pieces to all of this,” he said.

Academic is number one, with the rest of the school revolving around it.

“The best quality education you can have at the lowest possible cost,” he said. “Address the problems in society from your research and come up with solutions that make the world a better place, that’s the core. But then there’s how do you pay for it, that’s the budget, how do you do it space-wise? Right now.”

He said he is working on a new master plan for the physical campus.

“We’re really trying to visualize, not just building by building,” like the 20/20 plan, he said.

That means more housing on campus, a more vibrant campus and more research labs.

He has questions: How does he incorporate the Health Sciences campus in Tioga? What does he do with Ambler? And the Center City campus?

The plan for a new library, which was the cornerstone of the 20/20 plan, could be moved closer to the center of campus, “because I don’t want students in the center of Broad Street,” he said.

The Theobald’s took the grill out of their home because it didn’t fit.

He said it works the same with Temple.

“Space really matters,” he said.

Theobald’s resume

  • Served as senior vice president and chief financial officer at Indiana University.
  • Went to IU from the University of Washington, where he was associate professor of education finance.
  • Earned a bachelor’s degree from Trinity College and a doctoral degree from the University of Washington.
  • Major accomplishments include: increasing the mean SAT score of the incoming class at IU Bloomington from 1096 to 1203, directing a $1.1 billion capital campaign, and boosting IU’s credit ranking.

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