Campus / News / September 23, 2010

Presidential search underway

With the help of a search committee representing every type of constituent, Knox College has set itself a new goal: find and install President Roger Taylor’s replacement by July 1, 2011.

At this point in the search, which began last April with Taylor’s announcement of his intent to retire, “We are building a pool of candidates,” said Richard Riddell ’72. A Knox trustee and chair of the Presidential Search Committee, Riddell has overseen similar types of searches in his time as vice president and university secretary of Duke University.

However, according to Riddell, “every search is different.” With this in mind, the committee’s initial goal was to talk to as many constituencies as possible—including students, staff, faculty, alumni, trustees and Galesburg residents—in order to establish an idea of what people were looking for in a Knox president. In a process extending from April to August, the committee condensed the information into a “Presidential Position Profile,” which presents both the strengths and challenges of the college and outlines presidential characteristics being sought.

The committee itself grew out of several sources. Riddell was charged with working with Student Senate to solicit students to serve on the committee. In conjunction with their input, Riddell sought students who “would have a breadth of knowledge about the college as a whole…people who had a connection to Knox, who cared about Knox.”

A similar process was used to choose faculty and staff members. Janet Koran ’71, chair of the board of trustees, selected a number of trustees for the committee. The board looked to Taylor for a recommendation of a Galesburg citizen who would assist with the search process.

“I feel very confident that what we [the committee] grew out of came from a wide constitutive process,” Riddell said.

With the committee assembled and Knox’s profile released for inspection by potential applicants, the search will move into less public phase. Assisted by the search consulting firm Issacson Miller, the search committee will actively solicit applications as well as review any that are received. Riddell noted that the search firm will be especially active in “receiving nominations but also recruiting candidates.”

Riddell described the profile assembled by the search committee as being especially helpful in recruiting potential candidates.

“You get a sense of the strengths of Knox but also the challenges,” he said. He noted that candidates want, most of all, “a realistic picture” of what such a job would entail.

The committee’s ultimate goal is to have someone take over the job of president by July 1, 2011. Riddell did not anticipate having to extend the search any longer.

“There’s been a lot of interest in this search,” he said. “A lot of people…know about Knox. One general impression people have is a high-quality reputation.”

Although the committee outlined general qualities desired in a president, Riddell suggested such ideas remained “abstract” at this point and that more definite goals and characteristics would emerge as individual candidates applied for the position.

Knox students, however, already had specific priorities in mind.

“What I am looking for in a president is someone who is willing to put more focus on student initiatives,” senior Sara Demaria said. “I agree that keeping our finances stable is very important, but I feel that what we need now is someone to help the students make good use of that money.”

“Something that I liked about Roger Taylor was his availability. His door is always open,” said junior Brandon Paraharm. “Availability, vulnerability and transparency are key and that’s someone everybody is requesting right now. Hopefully our next president won’t mind having that quality.”

No matter individual priorities for Knox’s next president, Riddell encouraged all members of the Knox community to suggest potential candidates for the position.

“If anyone knows of a good candidate,” Riddell said, “they should let the committee know by submitting that information on the Knox website. “

Katy Sutcliffe

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