Wheless Partners Leading President Search for Cleveland State University

Wheless Partners President Search Cleveland State U.

August 8, 2017 – Cleveland State University (CSU) president Ronald Berkman, who since his arrival in 2009 has transformed what was predominantly a commuter school into a campus with strong partnerships, has announced his retirement. The college has enlisted Wheless Partners to find its next leader.

The search will be managed by Mike JR Wheless, managing partner and division president of Wheless Partners, and Lisa Marks, the firm’s managing director and divisional chief operations officer.

Wheless Partners has coordinated many executive searches across Ohio, and has led presidential and chancellor searches for numerous public and private universities nationally. The firm was selected by the school’s board after a public RFP process.

CSU also announced the appointment of members to its presidential search committee. The group, consisting of board members, students, faculty, staff and community members, will work with Wheless Partners to review potential candidates and make a recommendation to the board.

“Wheless Partners is one of the nation’s leading executive search firms and has broad expertise in the private and public sectors as well as specific experience with the unique requirements of a university presidential search process,” said Bernie Moreno, chairman of CSU’s board of trustees. “We are excited to partner with Wheless to select a leader who can continue the tremendous growth CSU has experienced over the last decade.”

“We seek an inspirational leader who is prepared to meet these challenges with vision, creativity and a passion for the transformative power of higher education,” Mr. Moreno said. “Those accustomed to business as usual need not apply.”


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Reduced state funding, rising tuition costs, soaring student debt and decreased federal research funding have all contributed to a dramatic rise in the role search firms are playing in the recruitment of university presidents and chancellors.

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An Array of Clients

Wheless Partners, founded in 1986, conducts management, executive and board searches across all industries and functions. It also handles succession planning, talent mapping and interim executive solutions, among other services. The firm has worked with Fortune 500 companies, mid-size operations, leading public and private institutions, investment portfolio companies, not-for-profit foundations and start-ups.

Mr. Wheless, who advocates a team approach to consulting, has worked for an array of clients, including Microsoft, National Australia Bank, CSG International, Ralph Lauren, Bank of Tokyo, Duke University, Sysco Foods Corporation, Halliburton, University of Texas System, United Parcel Services (UPS), the Gallup Organization, Inc., Murphy Oil, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Lowe Enterprises/ Destination Hotels and Resorts, ITT Corporation, the Texas Medical Center Corporation and Home Depot.

Ms. Marks, a former CEO for an international non-profit, focuses on searches related to advancement and fundraising, foundations and non-profits. She is also involved in executive searches in the higher education, healthcare, and energy sectors – as well as board director succession planning.

“Given the numerous challenges higher education faces today, leadership for public colleges and universities has never been more imperative,” said Mr. Wheless. “Yet leadership development and succession planning in public higher education is lacking. Leadership development programs do not typically seek to assess, develop and improve leadership behaviors from the perspective of presidents or chancellors who have successfully performed this role in a systematic manner.”

Schools Turning to Search Firms

As the new academic year approaches, a number of colleges and universities across the country are opening searches that, if all goes to plan, will provide high-profile leaders to take them into a new era of fundraising, digitalization, sports and, more often the case, globalization.

The hunt for university leadership has been heating up in recent months. Here’s a look at a few appointments from the Hunt Scanlon Media archives:

Storbeck/Pimentel Leads President Search for Indiana State
Indiana State University recently enlisted Storbeck/ Pimentel & Associates, one of the leading boutique providers in the higher education space, to help find its 12th president. Partner Ryan Crawford is leading the assignment.

Russell Reynolds Associates Places First Non-Jesuit President at Fairfield University
Fairfield University recently named Mark R. Nemec, Ph.D., as its ninth president, the first non-Jesuit to lead the school. Assisting with the search was Russell Reynolds Associates. Meredith Rosenberg and Jett Pihakis led the assignment.

RPA Inc. Recruits Two University Presidents
Executive search firm RPA Inc. has recruited Dr. Anthony E. Munroe as the president of Essex County College and Laurie A. Carter as president of Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Munroe becomes the 8th president of Essex County College.

Isaacson, Miller Finds Seventh President for Juilliard
Executive search firm Isaacson, Miller placed Damian Woetzel, a renowned former principal dancer for the New York City Ballet, as the seventh president of The Juilliard School. Isaacson, Miller chairman John Isaacson led the search with vice president Sheryl Ash and associates Katie Rockman and Cortney Tunis.

AGB Search Tapped to Find Iowa State President
The Iowa Board of Regents chose AGB Search to help find the next president for Iowa State University. The position became available when the previous president, Steven Leath, accepted the president’s job at Auburn University. AGB will be paid $110,000, plus expenses, for the assignment.

William Funk & Associates Recruits New President for Auburn
R. William Funk & Associates completed the assignment for Auburn, placing Steven Leath as its 19th president. He replaces Jay Gogue, who announced his retirement in September. Recruiting firm founder and president, R. William Funk, led the assignment.

Academic Sector Pumping Big Fees Into Search Firms
Elon University started a search for a new leader, turning to academic leadership recruiting specialist Storbeck / Pimentel & Associates to find its ninth president. Leo M. Lambert, Elon’s popular president for the past 18 years, has stepped down.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Will Schatz, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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