Second presidential forum proves Pescovitz does her homework

Paige Brockway, Editor-in-Chief

Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, the second of Oakland University’s two presidential finalists, participated in an open forum Thursday, April 20.

Wearing a black-and-gold blazer and speaking to a room of about 600 faculty and students, Pescovitz proved she had done her homework on OU. Throughout her opening presentation and Q-and-A, she cited decisions made at the last Board of Trustees meeting, the university’s strategic plan, data on graduation and retention rates, and even The Oakland Post.

“I’ve tried to learn as much as I can about you in the relatively short time that I was a candidate,” she said.

Pescovitz came prepared with a PowerPoint presentation about her life, leadership style and philosophies — as well as a few slides that anticipated audience questions, which she saved for the Q-and-A portion of the forum.


Pescovitz shared her memories of growing up in Washington D.C. in the midst of the civil rights movement, during which her father was good friends with Martin Luther King Jr. At age 6, she joined her parents in the March on Washington and witnessed King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Later, in high school, she discovered her love for science, which led her to enter a six-year medical program at Northwestern University, where she met her future husband, Mark Pescovitz. The couple had three children and was married for 31 years before Mark died in a car accident on I-94 while driving between Ann Arbor and Indianapolis in 2010.

Today, Pescovitz has three grandchildren and has found love again with Indianapolis cardiologist Daniel Walsh.

Pescovitz is a pediatric endocrinologist, adjunct professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine, senior vice president of Eli Lilly and Company and U.S. medical leader for Lilly Bio-Medicines.


When asked by Laila Guessous, professor of mechanical engineering, why she wants to become a university president after such a diverse career, Pescovitz explained a model of learning, earning and returning.

“Early in our careers, we should be about learning,” she said. “In the middle of our careers, it should be about earning, and later in our careers, it should be about returning . . . The idea of returning is something that matters to me. I’ve learned, I’ve earned, and now I want to return my learnings to an institution.”

Pescovitz said successful leaders are ready to adapt to changing needs.

“We should reach high,” Pescovitz said. “We should have aspirational goals. We might not get all of them, but we might reach our secondary goals.”

She also listed “eight C’s” that she believes distinguish extraordinary leaders and institutions: moral compass, compassion, courage, contribution, commitment, communication, collaboration and creativity.

“We have to have all of them together to be extraordinary,” she said.


Pescovitz also described what she calls a “mentor quilt,” a metaphor that stresses having different mentors for different facets of life.

“Each patch on my quilt is a mentor for something else,” Pescovitz said. “So, one patch on my quilt is a mentor for academic work. Another patch on my quilt helps me be a better mother . . . another helped me with finances. And when my husband was killed, I needed someone to help me be a better widow. And, today, I have the warmest, most luxurious, most comforting quilt of mentors. And whenever I need it, I pull it out, and I wrap myself in this mentor quilt.”

Pescovitz said she’d like to encourage mentorship programs at OU — for both students and faculty — and discussed the importance of work-life balance.

Plans for OU

Pescovitz described Oakland as “a diamond in the rough” and presented a plan for her first 100 days.

Her plan includes an “internal listening tour,” during which she would meet with departments, schools and faculty to understand their concerns, priorities and aspirations. She would collaborate with faculty to create a list of development opportunities at OU, while also engaging in an “external exposure tour” to get to know the surrounding communities.

Other plans include “match[ing] fund-raising and friend-raising efforts,” and introducing quarterly “student chats” and “faculty chats.”

Pescovitz used a recipe with various ingredients as a metaphor for OU.

“Maybe I’m the spicy sauce that can help you catalyze,” she said.

Next steps

Pescovitz’s executive resume is posted online, and the campus community is invited to give feedback on her candidacy by completing an online survey available at

A forum for her opponent, Kelly Services CEO and President Carl Camden, was held Monday, April 17. Camden’s executive resume is also available on Oakland’s website. The survey that followed Camden’s visit has expired.

The Board of Trustees’ decision will be announced at a special board meeting at 12:30 p.m. on May 4.