Campus / News / October 28, 2010

Presidential search in confidential phase

The search for a new president has moved into a more confidential phase. After getting the opinions of the Knox community, the Presidential Search Committee has begun recruiting applicants.

Richard Riddell ’72, Chair of the Presidential Search Committee , held a meeting for alumni about the search on Friday.

After gathering information in the first phase, the committee has begun the second phase, which involves advertising and “building the pool of candidates.” The committee met this week to discuss some specific candidates.

As the search progresses the committee will start to interview candidates. There will be two rounds of interviews, which Riddell compared to semifinals and finals.

Riddell said, “December is the target to narrow the pool of candidates who will be interviewed.”

Eventually the committee will submit one or more names to the Board of Trustees, which is responsible for hiring the president. According to Riddell, “Our board has taken this responsibility quite seriously.”

The committee is also considering candidates from nontraditional places. Riddell said that Taylor’s nontraditional background has taught them that they can “go for someone outside the box.”

Riddell said that they did not list any specific requirements in order to leave the door open for all sorts of people.

Riddell stressed the importance that this phase be confidential. Although it would be “useful to see how they actually interact with the community,” candidates in positions of authority elsewhere would lose credibility where they are currently working if they openly visited the campus. Riddell said the committee would like to bring candidates to campus when they narrow it down but will have to “exercise discretion as we get closer.”

Although this phase is confidential, Riddell said that they ought to keep people informed. They have done this through posting updates on the presidential search page of the Knox website and sending out email updates. The committee is trying to remain clear and consistent by having Riddell be the only contact within the committee.

Charles Kutal, class of ’65, was very impressed with the way the search is being conducted.

“They’re on the right track; Richard [Riddell] is the perfect person to lead,” he said.

Alumni at the meeting expressed concern over everything from the new president’s ability to fundraise to how they would improve athletics at Knox. Ray Carlson, also class of ’65, said, “I hope they get someone who can manage and fundraise.”

John Heyer, ’68, wanted the new president to be someone who can, “effectively say ‘I made a decision, get on board.’”

Among the alumni, as well as Riddell, there was a strong sentiment that Taylor was going to be a difficult president to replace. Riddell referred to Taylor as, “the right man at the right time” and said that he was successful in getting the Galesburg community involved with the college. Wife of President Taylor and Knox’s Pro Bono Counsel Anne Taylor taught Riddell and the committee that not only the president but also his partner is important: “You need a team,” Riddell said. One alumnus jokingly commented that the committee should look for, “Roger’s younger twin brother.”

According to Riddell, the Board of Trustees was prepared for Taylor’s resignation and appointed a search committee, consisting of students, faculty, staff, trustees and a Galesburg community member right away.

The committee hired search consultants to help with the process. Riddell said some of the benefits of the company are that they bring experience and contacts, within and outside of the academic world.

The first phase of the process consisted of listening to students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members and compiling a description of qualities they are looking for in a new president. The consulting firm also wrote a profile of the college. This profile, for potential candidates to get to know the school, was written by the consulting firm, because, Riddell said, “they have fresh eyes.”

The committee is looking for a candidate who, “has demonstrated commitment to liberal arts education…has the vision and energy to advance the College…values young people…[and] leads the College in a warm, collaborative, yet decisive manner,” according to the qualifications listed on the presidential search website.

Gretchen Walljasper

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