Former NEOMED President Gershen Dies at 74

ROOTSTOWN, Ohio – Former Northeast Ohio Medical University President Dr. Jay Gershen has died, the university announced, from lymphoma and related complications. He was 74.

Gershen retired from NEOMED last year after serving as its leader for 10 years. On his final day at the university, during a send-off event that included an impromptu reception line of guests thanking Gershen, the main atrium at the campus’ Education and Wellness Center was renamed the Jay. A. Gershen Atrium.

“His tenure was filled with unprecedented growth for NEOMED. His vision and collaborative approach were applauded and embraced both inside and outside the NEOMED community. While Dr. Gershen’s storied career spans nearly 50 years from the East Coast to the West and his well-documented successes were among several organizations, the man we all call ‘Jay’ was centered on celebrating anyone but himself,” wrote Josh Langell, the university’s current president. “Jay celebrated community, diversity and integrity. He thrived on collaboration, partnerships and inclusion. He cared about people, family and society. He enjoyed teaching, serving and research.”

In his time leading NEOMED, he focused on diversifying its student body, launching the Education for Service scholarship and forgivable loan program that offered incentives for graduates to work in underserved communities, both rural and urban, as well as the National Health Service Corps.

It was also under his leadership that the NEOMED Education and Wellness Center opened, providing the community with a fitness center, physical therapy and primary care services, a student-run free clinic, bistro and conference center. He also led the creation of the Bio-Med Science Academy, the country’s first public STEM high school on a medical university campus.

Serving as president of the Rootstown medical university was the final step in a higher education career that lasted more than 40 years. A dentist by trade, Gershen first worked at the UCLA School of Dentistry from 1976 to 1997 before becoming executive vice chancellor of University of Colorado at Denver. There, he led the conversion of the former Fitzsimmons Army Garrison to the Colorado Health Sciences Center, a $4.3 billion project. In 2006, he was named vice chancellor for external affairs at UC-Denver; he also served as a dentistry professor his entire time there.

After arriving in northeastern Ohio, Gershen served several boards, including as vice chairman of the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education and chairman of the Inter-University Council of Ohio’s President’s Council. 

He also served on the boards of the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce, Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Commission on Economic Inclusion, Fund for Our Economic Future, Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Portage County Development Board, Stark Development Board, Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Team NEO. Nationally, he served on the board of the Association of Academic Health Centers and the Sullivan Alliance to Transform America’s Health Professions. He was a long-standing board member and served on the Executive Committee of Research!America.

“The health and science research community mourns the loss of Jay Gershen. Jay was a valued and active member of Research!America’s Board of Directors since 1996, as well as a personal friend and ally in our shared aspiration of elevating medical progress and promoting the importance of scientific discovery,” Research!America said in a  statement. “Jay provided superb leadership for Research!America’s membership committee, working tirelessly to expand our organization’s membership base.”

Gershen’s family has asked that memorial contributions be made to the NEOMED Foundation or Research!America.

Pictured: Dr. Jay Gershen in October 2019, when he stepped down from his position as president of NEOMED.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.