Former AG tapped to lead state’s university system

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Jim Petro ’70 has been selected as Ohio’s next chancellor of higher education.

On March 14, Jim Petro ’70 will add another title to his impressive résumé. The former auditor and attorney general of Ohio has just been named as the new chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, the top leadership position of the University System of Ohio. The appointment came from Gov. John Kasich on Feb. 28 for what’s considered to be a cabinet-level position.

Petro is certainly familiar with higher education in Ohio. He earned his degrees in the state: a B.A. in history from Denison and a J.D. from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland. In addition, he served as Ohio’s auditor of state for seven years, keeping a close eye on both the finances and the outcomes of Ohio’s schools. And, as the state’s attorney general from 2003 to 2006, Petro was the chief legal officer of the state’s colleges and universities.

But Petro’s distinguished career hasn’t focused solely on education. He has spent nearly 40 years in the legal profession and has been a practicing attorney, a criminal prosecutor, Cuyahoga County commissioner, and a state representative.

As attorney general, he teamed up with Mark Godsey, a professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Law and the head of the Ohio Innocence Project, to work on the case of Clarence Elkins, an innocent man sent to prison for murder and rape. It was a risky career move to be the first attorney general to intervene on behalf of a convicted criminal, but it paid off. Elkins was exonerated in 2005.

“I always took the view, even as a prosecutor, that our job was to seek justice, not just to win the contest,” he told WOSU Radio’s Ann Fisher in a recent interview that included his wife, Nancy Bero Petro ’70 (audio below). And you’ll be able to read more about the Petros in the next issue of Denison Magazine.

The Petros’ book, “False Justice” (2011, Kaplan), has earned acclaim both in the media and from legal scholars.

Nancy and Jim have long been dedicated Denison alumni. Nancy, who holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Denison, is a planning and communications consultant and a member of the college’s Board of Trustees.

For his service to the citizens of Ohio and to Denison, Jim was recognized last year with a Distinguished Alumni Citation, the college’s highest alumni honor. And in 1998, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Public Administration.

A prominent member of the Ohio legal community for several decades, Jim currently serves as partner-in-charge in the Columbus office of Roetzel & Andress, a well-known comprehensive law firm with a number of offices across Ohio and Florida, and in New York and Washington, D.C.


Audio: WOSU Radio “All Sides with Ann Fisher” interview
Jim and Nancy Bero Petro ’70 discuss the Elkins case, the criminal justice system, and their new book, “False Justice: Eight Myths that Convict the Innocent.”

Below is the press release from the Governor’s Office on Petro’s appointment as chancellor.

February 28, 2011

KASICH APPOINTS PETRO TO SERVE AS CHANCELLOR OF THE OHIO BOARD OF REGENTS

CLEVELAND – Today Gov. John R. Kasich appointed James Petro to serve as Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents. In his new role, Petro will lead the University System of Ohio – the largest comprehensive system of public higher education in the nation – and will work to ensure that Ohio provides the best opportunities possible for its students, graduates, and businesses. Petro’s appointment is effective March 14, 2011, and is subject to the advice and consent of the Ohio Senate.

Jim Petro is a native of Brooklyn, Ohio and a graduate of two Ohio universities – Denison University (Granville) and Case Western Reserve University School of Law (Cleveland). As Ohio Auditor of State (1995-2002), Petro provided financial and performance oversight of Ohio’s universities, and as Ohio Attorney General (2003-2006), Petro served as the chief legal officer to the state’s universities. Petro is the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Citation from Denison University and is a member of Case Western Reserve University School of Law’s Honorary Society of Benchers.

Kasich’s announcement was originally scheduled to be made this evening at Cuyahoga Community College, Ohio’s oldest and largest public community college, but severe weather delayed Gov. Kasich’s return to Ohio from Washington, D.C. where he was attending the National Governors Association’s winter meeting.

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