Trustees Talk Search
Penn State trustees hope to have a new university president announced by about January 2014, six months before current president Rod Erickson retires.
Jim Broadhurst ’65, chair of the trustees’ committee on governance and long-range planning, outlined a proposed search process during the trustees’ meeting today at University Park. His committee will spend time during the trustees’ next two meetings (September and November) working through the details of the search process, with the hope of launching the search around the time of the January meeting.
“It’d be important to complete the search approximately five to six months prior to the expected date that the next president would take office,” Broadhurst said. “And the actual search could conceivably take up to a year. This would mean that by no later than the January 2013 board meeting, the board would formally announce the final details of the search process.”
Broadhurst proposed that two groups be constituted: a Presidential Selection Council, consisting primarily of trustees, and a Presidential Search and Screen Committee, which would have representation from faculty, students, and alumni.
Broadhurst proposed that the Selection Council might also include the chair of the university’s fundraising campaign, the gubernatorial-appointed student trustee, and a representative from Penn State Hershey, among others. The Search and Screen Committee could include, among others, the president of the Alumni Association.
But, he stressed, the exact composition of the two groups is something to be worked out over the next few months.
The Selection Council, Broadhurst said, would “establish the criteria, qualifications, and previous experience required of a candidate for the position,” and set the time schedule for the process.
The Search and Screen Committee would actually conduct the search, with the help of an executive search firm, and bring back to the Selection Council with an unranked list of candidates to consider.
Interviews could begin as soon as next June and would continue into the fall, with a decision made by December or January.
Broadhurst went into rapid-fire, hard-to-keep-up-with detail as to who might serve on which of the two groups and the timeframe for the process. When he was finished, trustee Mark Dambly ’80 joked that “You were losing me for a minute, but then I came back.
“We’ve been criticized in the past as trustees for not being inclusive with each other,” Dambly said. “I was thinking you were telling me more than I needed to know, but it was healthy to put it on the table. Nobody can complain and say, ‘I didn’t hear it.’”
Current president Rod Erickson said he won’t play a role in the process—it’s rare for a university president to be involved in the search for his or her successor—but he did talk about how such searches typically go. “Search firms are essential in this day and age,” he said, and the process “tends to be relatively lengthy.”
Both Erickson and Broadhurst stressed how important confidentiality will be to the search; for one thing, candidates for a position like this wouldn’t want their current employer to know they’re considering leaving.
Finding a new president can be a challenge, Erickson says: “There are tremendous external demands on presidents, as well as tremendous internal demands. So the pools in general tend to be less broad than they perhaps were 10 years ago. There are fewer provosts who aspire to presidencies. That’s been pretty well-documented in terms of the survey literature.” But, Erickson said, “It only takes one great person.”
My favorite moment in the discussion was when one of the trustees (I didn’t catch who) referred to the next president as “the guy.” In response, trustee Marianne Alexander ’62 grabbed her microphone and said:
“With all due respect to my colleague … it might not be a guy.”
Tina Hay, editor