David Skorton was probably one of the coolest people to head a huge organization that I have ever met. By coolest, I mean that in a very dude-like matter of way as well as just being so laid back. And by organization, I mean the University of Iowa. I can’t say that I’ve met a whole lot of people who were presidents of large universities, but Skorton was just a nice guy.
He’s smart, calm, and always relaxed, no matter what major issue is facing him. If you ask him a question that he doesn’t have all the answers for, he’ll admit it and promise to get back to you on it. I have yet to hear anyone say that he’s never followed up on his word either. Sure, it helps when you have a group of people helping you out and planning your day, but the guy wasn’t paid $300,000+ to sit on his rear all day long. He always had something going on and somewhere to go.
Sadly, he’s leaving the UI. I know my ties have been cut for a while now, but it makes me concerned to see him leave. These are massive shoes to fill, not to mention his devotion to the arts and education. One thing I always admired about him was his focus on equating spending on athletics with the rest of the university. Those roots run deep in terms of where the funding goes, but the arts really had chances to shine under his administration.
Skorton was named President in the last months before my time at KRUI was over. The first time I met him as president of the UI, he demanded that he have a tour of the new station facilities with me since he was told that I was the most knowledgeable about the new digs. It still bums me out that we never had that opportunity. I had many chances to talk with him before his promotion from a vice president position, having him on a few radio shows I either hosted or engineered. He always prefered that I call him by his first name and noted that every time he met me, I looked different either by weight or length of hair.
During my days at WSUI/KSUI, I had interaction with his latin jazz program that he loved more than anything to do. The show was a release for his always busy schedule. He always had something cool and new to play that he shared something about to you as he squeezed in a conversation with you between air breaks or while walking down the hall. I have yet to find anyone who is a better master of having a conversation while walking away from you without making you feel shunned.
Cornell University is where David Skorton will be heading to next. There is a reason that such a prestigious school wants this guy. He’s that good. Best of luck to him.