Former University president featured on local station

By Sara Blair Matthews

Writer

Former University president Gary A. Sojka Ph.D. talked tenure, farming, academia and Pennsylvania as a guest on an hour-long special on the all-new Northeast Pennsylvania Business Journal on WVIA-TV on Wednesday, Jan. 18. The Northeast Pennsylvania Business Journal is a series funded by Franklin Security Bank that typically airs as a 30-minute radio program on Sundays at 4:30 p.m. on WVIA FM.
Sojka served as the University’s president for 11 years from 1984-1995 and has been cited as one of the University’s most influential figures. He also served as a biology professor during his presidency.

Sojka, now retired, raises and breeds endangered livestock with his wife on their farm.

“[How people view my presidency] is similar to my legacy as a college football player. I fumbled and even blocked a few of our own kicks on occasion, but when I return to reunions I become a better player than I was the year before. The same is true with my presidency—people remember presidents as they remember their own past. We get better with time,” Sojka said. “I stepped in at a very good moment.”

Sojka came from Indiana University prior to his stay at the University. He was the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences there, but was worn out from leading an administrative life.

“The opportunity at Bucknell acted as a bridging stone for my return to academia,” Sojka said.
He accepted a position at the University on the condition that he would also be part of the faculty.
Sojka also shared his take on what tenure means in last Wednesday’s special.
“The purpose of tenure is to protect academic freedom and the freedom of inquiry,” Sojka said.
He claims that people vying for tenure often have to swim against the current, and they often come up with well-researched, unpopular answers. According to Sojka, the negatives of tenure come when people try to abuse the system.
“The abuse of the system is from people who get [tenure] and go to sleep for the next 20 years. [To avoid this,] departments try to weed out the people who they know won’t make it,” Sojka said.
Sojka also discussed farming and his role in Pennsylvania’s farming system during the WVIA interview. He and his wife Stacy are dedicated to endangered livestock breed conservation.
“It is very important to preserve their gene pool for future generations. We are part of a livestock heritage,” Sojka said.
Sojka is pleased with his decision to stay and retire in Pennsylvania.
“I think it’s got everything people could want—history, future, a sense of culture,” he said. “People stay here for a reason. And it ain’t bad to look at.”
To listen to former President Sojka’s interview, you can either tune in for encore episodes airing on WVIA-TV on Thursday, Jan. 19 at 10 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 22 at 4 p.m. The program is also available on demand at http://wviaondemand.org/contusmore/?playid=7.
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