The Orion

Q&A: Chico State President Paul Zingg

Blaine Ball

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Chico State President Paul Zingg holds up one of the many ties from his extensive collection. Zingg has been president of the university since 2004. Photo credit: Malik Payton

Paul Zingg, president of Chico State, has many goals, ambitions and ties.

With a decorated resume and a vast collection of sports memorabilia, Zingg leads the university in its efforts toward academic and intercollegiate athletic excellence as he heads into his 12th year as president of Chico State.

During the course of his career working in several administrative positions, Zingg has published 12 books and led Chico State to a 10-year reaccreditation award. Along with all of his accomplishments and aspirations, Zingg has managed to maintain a “fanatic interest” in athletics, sports memorabilia and even ties. The Orion sat down with Zingg to discuss some of his professional and personal qualities.

The Orion: Having experience at other universities, what makes Chico State a unique school?

Zingg: The downtown relationship is really strong. That’s different from the other places I have been where most schools are a mile or further from their downtown area. This is a college town, and we have certain responsibilities in that regard. The town benefits from contributions the school has to offer and it’s really a partnership. I really like that a lot.

Also, we are the only CSU north of Sacramento and that puts a lot of responsibility on us to serve this region which underscores why we are a comprehensive university. We provide an entire range of needs that the region requires.

The Orion: What are some challenges you have encountered since becoming president?

Zingg: I really have enjoyed taking on the challenge of strengthening the reputation of the university for all the right reasons. In 2002, we were still No. 2 on Playboy’s party list, and we haven’t been on that list since. A lot of what I will talk about at spring convocation is the lists that we are now on — and they’re pretty impressive lists.

I enjoy us having the reputation of a fun place, but we don’t need to be considered party central. That has changed and the students have enabled that to happen. Student leadership has been critical to making that change.

The Orion: What advice do you have for students that are still trying to find themselves educationally?

Zingg: Education is about self-discovery. What we have to do is provide for our students as many opportunities as we can so they can discover something about their values and their interests. As well as to make that exploration somewhat challenging but as well as safe so that students can take chances without risk of making the wrong choice.

The Orion: You’ve published 12 books as well as nearly 100 articles. Do you take into account the risk that some may disagree with your perspective on a topic?

Zingg: You have to be true to whatever you are writing about, but at the same time you have to know your audience. Above all it’s about being truthful. If you always tell the truth your answer will always be the same. My most recent book explores the Irish culture through sports in Ireland, in particular, golf. I wanted to choose a sport that was universal, but one that took a particular shape because of the geography and history of Ireland.

The Orion: So you seem to enjoy sports. Would you consider yourself somewhat of a fanatic?

Zingg: I am a fanatic. I played baseball, basketball and golf in college as well as very briefly played professional baseball and basketball. When I began writing about sports I was writing from the perspective of not just a historian but from the perspective of a player and competitor.

The Orion: Would you mind showing off some examples of your tie collection?

Zingg: I’ve bought and been given ties over the years. I must even have 50 baseball ties alone. My wife is Japanese, and every time she goes to Japan she brings me back a tie hand-made by Kimijima, who makes ties with incredibly soft silk from Japan. I have ties from all over given to me and personally purchased. I get some for quality purposes but as well as some mass-produced ties that simply look neat. Because of all that writing I must have been given 300 caps, about 100 baseballs and 40 or so ties.

The Orion: So have your past interests as an athlete led to a current interest as a spectator of athletics here at Chico State?

Zingg: Absolutely. I think the great thing about sports competition is you find something out about yourself. How do you handle pressure? How do you deal with teamwork? How do you deal with the different roles you have? Everyone has a role to play and embracing such a role contributes to the beauty of a team.

The Orion: Do you compare such aspects in sports to that of higher education?

Zingg: Yes. It’s all about building a team. I’m a coach, a player and a fan. As president I do all those things. I’m lucky to have many different roles just like an athlete would have on a field or court. There’s a spree of spirit that comes from such organization in sports and especially at a university.

The Orion: Your office is filled with sports paraphernalia. How do you wind up with so much stuff?

Zingg: Because I’ve written so many books on baseball and other sports over the years, people give me gifts. They give me three gifts in particular: baseballs, caps and ties. Families of athletes I’ve written about have given me gifts such as 115-year-old baseballs and gloves worn by their relatives who have played professional ball. Then many give me hats. I have a relative from Switzerland affiliated with the Swiss national baseball team who’s given me the team’s cap.

Zingg will be giving his 2015 spring convocation speech on Thursday from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Harlen Adams Theatre. He will review some of Chico State’s 2014 school year accomplishments, as well as address goals for the 2015 spring and fall semesters.

Blaine Ball can be reached at [email protected] or @BlaineHBall on Twitter.

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Q&A: Chico State President Paul Zingg