Witt/Kieffer Leading President Search for Ball State University

January 11, 2017 – Executive search firm Witt/Kieffer is currently leading the search for Ball State University‘s 16th president. Past president Paul Ferguson has left the school to become Biola University president. John K. Thornburgh, a senior partner in the firm’s education practice, and senior associate Elizabeth K. Bohan are leading the assignment.

The presidential selection process is governed by the Ball State University board of trustees. The board has appointed a presidential search committee comprising a diverse mix of Ball State stakeholders. The search committee will oversee the initial recruitment and evaluation of candidates, and the board will make the final appointment.

Personal Qualifications

The board of trustees is seeking an experienced, forward-looking, and creative leader who will be presented with ample opportunities for professional and personal fulfillment. A PhD or other terminal degree is preferred. In lieu of a terminal degree, candidates should have a demonstrated record of successful executive leadership and comparable credentials and/or experience sufficient to warrant the respect and complete confidence of the school’s academic community.

Experience in managing the financial and budgeting operations of a complex unit or organization is a prerequisite for this position. Prior financial management experience will provide the foundation for effectively managing all major business aspects of the university.

Raising resources is critical to the growth and progress of Ball State, and according to the position specification the president must play a key role in this process. In fact, an estimated 25 to 30 percent of the president’s time will be spent in the fundraising arena.

Founded in 1917, Ball State is located in Muncie, Indiana, has a total enrollment of 21,998 students, including 17,011 undergraduate and 4,987 postgraduate. It offers about 190 undergraduate majors and 130 minor areas of study and more than 140 master’s, doctoral, certificate, and specialist degrees.


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The Recruiters

Mr. Thornburgh has 30 years of leadership experience as an executive or governing board member in healthcare, higher education, a Fortune 50 corporation and not-for-profit organizations. He specializes in executive search assignments for higher education, healthcare, and academic medicine clients who are seeking key executive roles as CEO / president / chancellor, provost, CFO, dean, vice president and other prominent positions.

Ms. Bohan has extensive experience partnering with clients to recruit top leaders. She supports them in articulating a compelling leadership profile, identifying and recruiting a diverse and highly qualified candidate pool, and ensuring a streamlined and inclusive search process.

Finding Academic Leaders

Searching for academic leadership is now akin to searching for leaders for any business enterprise. As such, colleges and universities continue to turn to executive search firms to fill their most senior level roles. And search firms have stepped up, with some 150 recruiting specialist outfits now serving just the academia sector alone.

“It is no wonder that universities and institutions of higher learning are turning to executive search firms in droves to fill their top roles,” said Diversified Search CEO Dale Jones. At a time with many academic leaders are retiring or leaving their posts to pursue other interests, he said, competition to replace them is intense.

“Recruiters have the requisite skills to manage a process that at times can be unwieldy, but more importantly they can help to expand a university’s reach and use their well-honed assessment skills to find the very best leaders in and out of higher education,” said Mr. Jones.

Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media

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