January 27, 2003

Presidential search firms, meetings announced

By Michael Terrazas mterraz@emory.edu

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 on hand.

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 Advisory Group.

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 search world.”

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 forum.

• 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 of Deans.

• 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 forum.

• 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 and Washington.

“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 and administration.

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.”






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