The rumors, Ben Johnson acknowledged, are as plentiful as they
are imaginative. Speaking at the Jan. 21 Faculty Council meeting
in Harland Cinema, the Emory Board of Trustees chair, who is chairing
the committee charged with finding a successor to President Bill
Chace, shared some of the more entertaining scuttlebutt with those
One murmur holds that former Georgia senator Sam Nunn already has
accepted the Emory presidency, Johnson said. Another contends that
Harry Payne, president of the Atlanta prep school Woodward Academy,
came south four years ago from Williams College (Mass.) as part
of an elaborate plan that eventually would land him in a certain
corner office of Emory’s Administration Building.
But despite the rumors, Johnson said, the work of the presidential
search committee must get under way, and it has. The committee announced
last week that two firms have been hired to assist in the search:
Spenser Stuart, an executive search firm highly experienced in university
searches (including presidential searches at the universities of
Pennsylvania, Virginia and Texas at Austin); and the Washington
Serving as principal consultants from Spenser Stuart will be William
Reeves (who also is assisting in the search for a successor to Executive
Vice President John Temple) and Paula Carabelli, who is a veteran
of Emory searches, having helped locate deans for Oxford College
and the schools of medicine, law, public health, nursing and the
graduate school, as well as a director for Yerkes and the executive
vice president for health affairs.
Acting as chief consultants for the Washington Advisory Group are
Joe Wyatt and Frank Rhodes. Wyatt spent 18 years as president of
Vanderbilt University after having served six years as vice president
for administration at Harvard, and Rhodes is former president (18
years) of Cornell University. Rhodes also served as both a dean
and a vice president at the University of Michigan.
“The combined experience and knowledge of higher education
that our consultants bring to our work will assure the strongest
pool of nominees for the Emory presidency,” Johnson said.
“In Frank Rhodes and Joe Wyatt, we have two former leaders
of distinguished research universities whose institututional profiles
closely match Emory’s. And in Paula Carabelli we have a wise
partner who knows Emory better than anyone else in the executive
Johnson also announced last week a schedule for several appearances
he and other search committee members will make to speak with various
University governance groups and constituent bodies. In addition
to the Jan. 21 Faculty Council meeting, Johnson also spoke the next
day at a meeting of the Emory College faculty in White Hall. Other
scheduled meetings include:
• Jan. 29, 7:30–9 a.m., WHSCAB auditorium. Open faculty
• Jan. 30, 5–6:30 p.m., Grady Hospital’s Steiner
Auditorium. School of Medicine faculty/staff open forum.
• Feb. 4, 9-10:30 a.m., Seney Hall, Oxford. Open faculty forum.
• Feb. 5, noon–1:30 p.m., 355 Dobbs Center. Council
• Feb. 5, 5:30–7 p.m., Miller-War Alumni House. Association
of Emory Alumni forum.
• Feb. 5, 8–9:30 p.m., Harland Cinema. Open student
• Feb. 6, 11:30 a.m.–1 p.m. Harland Cinema. Open staff
forum hosted by Employee Council.
At both of his appearances last week, Johnson brief those in attendance
on the committee’s work to date. The group has surveyed the
top 80 research universities in the country to find which are conducting
presidential searches and have located eight: Baylor College of
Medicine, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Texas
Tech and the universities of Cincinnati, Iowa, Minnesota-Twin Cities
“What this tells me is that we have an opportunity,”
Johnson said. “We have a window in which few institutions
that we would consider our peers are engaged in such a search. This
may provide us with certain advantages.”
The committee also will appoint several “advisory committees”
to represent the specific interest of constituent groups, such as
faculty, students, staff, alumni, etc. For instance, as an existing
representative body for faculty, Faculty Council members scrambled
last week to suggest members for the faculty advisory group.
At each meeting, Johnson also spent considerable time answering
questions about the search from those in attendance. One question
brought up at both events was the question of how the presidential
search will work in conjunction with those for Emory’s several
other open senior adminstrator positions—specifically, the
college dean, the provost and the executive vice president for finance
Johnson said consideration has been given to delaying or even suspending
certain searches until the presidential search is more advanced,
but he said right now each ongoing search committee will continue
its work normally. The issue may be revisited, he said, if Emory
begins to lose top-shelf candidates because of uncertainty over
to whom they will be reporting.
Johnson also said the presidential search has drawn the interest
of two very high-profile individuals with longtime University affiliations:
former Emory President James Laney and former U.S. President Jimmy
Carter. Each man, Johnson said, has made clear the importance he
places on finding the right individual for the Emory presidency.
Such concern, held by people of such stature, flies in the face
of the skepticism Johnson said he has encountered by other members
of the Emory community. At the Faculty Council meeting, he read
aloud from an e-mail he received from a faculty member of 25 years
(whom Johnson did not name) that expressed nothing short of contempt
for the search process, saying the next president likely already
has been chosen and that the committee will not truly listen to
anything the community has to say.
“I will never engage in a more important activity in my life
than making sure this search process results in the right leadership
for Emory,” Johnson said. “I suspect that is a sentiment
that is shared by just about everyone on the committee.”