Search committee formed to select new president

By MaryCate Most

As University President Robert Easter prepares to retire on June 30, 2015, the Board of Trustees is preparing to fill his shoes with the selection of a presidential search committee. 

“They will bring both unique insights and a deep, shared understanding of the University’s needs, its challenges and the critical role that its academic and research programs play in driving progress for our state and nation,” said board Chairman Christopher Kennedy in a press release.

The 19-member committee, appointed by the Board of Trustees during a special meeting held on April 19, will present a list of eight to 10 finalists to the board, who then hope to select a president by January 2015. The committee is chaired by trustee Pamela Strobel, who also chaired the search committee for former president Michael Hogan in 2010.

Search committee members include three trustees; eight faculty members from the University’s three campuses; a student from each campus; a representative from the Alumni Association and one from the University of Illinois Foundation; an administrative officer; an academic professional and a civil service representative.

The Urbana faculty appointed to the committee includes engineering professor Douglas Beck, who will serve as co-chair of the search committee, Engineering professor Roy Campbell and LAS professor Nick Burbules.

“This is another example of shared governance,” said University spokesman Tom Hardy in an April interview. “There are policies and practices in place to guide how this was done. It will be comprised of representatives from the various constituencies (of the University).”

Also from the Urbana campus, Xavier Ramirez, a senior who plans to attend graduate school, was chosen out of four student nominees to serve on the committee, alongside one student from each University campus.

Due to a scandal that led to former University President Michael Hogan’s resignation in March 2012, a presidential search committee was not used to select Easter as president; he was instead selected by chancellors and deans after they consulted with key members of the faculty senate, Hardy said. The University has not used a presidential search committee since Hogan was selected in 2010.

“I don’t think past episodes really have anything to do with or reflects on the advisory search committees or the work they performed,” Hardy said. “Everyone who is a part of this process gives a lot of their time. The fact that the presidency was vacated due to difficult circumstances is no reflection of the search committee.”

Search committee members will be responsible not only to search for presidential nominees, but also to help define the role of the next president, Campbell said.

“Our flagship campus has some really strategic goals that we need to satisfy,” Campbell said in an April interview. “(The University presidential candidates) must maintain educational excellence, and maintain a presence in Springfield and coordinate our campuses under budget constraints.”

Campbell said that the goal of the Board of Trustees was to find search committee members that will best represent the diverse constituencies within the University.

“They are going to be a really good team to help choose the president,” Campbell said. “In certain ways, we couldn’t have put a better foot forward.”

Hardy also emphasized that diversity within the selection committee would be key.

“(The Board of Trustees) will consider recommendations of potential advisory search committee members from all walks of life within the University,” Hardy said. “And obviously, students will play an important role.”

MaryCate can be reached  at [email protected] and @marycate_most.