March 17, 2021 – When the COVID-19 crisis began more than a year ago, one search firm, Anthem Executive, encouraged its clients to take advantage of a rare moment when most ongoing and new recruitments efforts were being paused or shut down completely due to growing concerns over the pandemic. The recruitment provider said it saw this window of time as an opportunity to recruit talent. “We continuously look for competitive advantages for our clients, including in the recruitment of talent,” said co-founder Mike J.R. Wheless. “When nearly every university and college in the country paused recruitment, we saw it as an opportune time to encourage our clients to recruit. Our philosophy was that if a client waits until COVID-19 is over they will once again be in the ongoing recruiting war for top, diverse talent, and come up against a significant recruitment backlog that will resume, in addition to the pent-up demand of new recruitments that will commence.”
Mr. Wheless said that top minority and female candidates receive recruitment overtures daily, and from a wide variety of sources. “But when COVID-19 was thrust upon the nation, recruitment calls to these candidates were nowhere near the pre-COVID-19 pace.” So, he said, his firm took notice. “There were very few ongoing nationwide recruitment efforts, and at times candidates were stuck at home and easy to reach. It was an advantageous time for us to recruit on behalf of our clients, particularly those who sought the best talent from underrepresented groups.” The counterintuitive strategy made sense to the firm’s clients and it kept Anthem Executive busy through the height of the pandemic and now into 2021.
As a result, the search firm closed numerous search assignments during COVID-19 and it has now begun a variety of new ones.
The firm supported Sam Houston State University in the hire of James Bradley as assistant vice president of enterprise services.
Anthem Executive also led the recruitment of an African American president for the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD), the public access university for Houston. UHD is a designated minority serving institution and Hispanic serving institution. The new president, Loren Blanchard, had been executive vice chancellor for academic and student affairs for the California State University System.
The Texas State University System also contracted with Anthem Executive for multiple president searches. The firm recently recruited Pete Gallego as president of Sul Ross State University. Mr. Gallego previously served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives.
Anthem Executive also recruited the first African American to lead the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). Keith Whitfield was announced as the 11th president of UNLV. Dr. Whitfield was previously with Wayne State University and Duke University.
William Pieratt was recruited by the search firm as dean of medicine and chief academic officer of the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine at New Mexico State University. Dr. Pieratt served as associate dean at the Texas A&M University College of Medicine.
Anthem Executive recruited Ajita Talwalker Menon as president and CEO of Calbright College, California’s Online College District, one of the largest online education initiatives in U.S. history. Ms. Talwalker Menon previously served as special assistant to the president for higher education in the Obama administration, as well as a senior policy adviser for higher education in the U.S. Department of Education.
Former Babson College president Kerry Murphy Healey was recruited by Anthem Executive as the inaugural president and CEO of the Milken Institute, Center for Advancing the American Dream, in Washington, D.C.
Following a nationwide search conducted by Anthem Executive, the University of Michigan board of regents approved Sonja Feist-Price as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs of the University of Michigan-Flint. Recruited from the University of Kentucky, Ms. Feist-Price directed both the African-American studies and research institute and graduate studies in rehabilitation counseling in the department of early childhood, special education and rehabilitation counseling. A licensed psychologist, Ms. Feist-Price also is a certified rehabilitation counselor, licensed professional clinical counselor and trained mediator.
The search firm also recruited Philip Hurd from Georgia Tech University to become the chief audit and compliance officer of the University of Houston System, reporting directly to the UH board of regents.
Anthem Executive Seeking CEO for Jewish Federation
Executive recruitment firm Anthem Executive has been enlisted to find the next president and chief executive officer for the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles (JFGLA). Leading the assignment are co-founders and consultants Michael Ballew, Mike J.R. Wheless, Scott Watson and senior client service partner Florene Stawowy.
“The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles is poised for continued growth and advancement,” said the search firm. “The federation is seeking a strategic CEO to lead them forward. A leader with an evolving vision for the Jewish community and Jewish life. A passionate CEO with the ability to build relationships throughout the community by sharing and implementing this vision in an energetic, compelling, and meaningful way.”
Nationwide Searches Begin
2021 looks to be just as active for the firm, as many new assignments get underway.
The R1 University, Wayne State University recently relaunched its nationwide search for a vice president of finance, business operations and treasurer. Wayne State paused its previous CFO recruitment efforts. After the pause, Anthem Executive was hired to restart the process and lead the search.
The board of regents of the University System of Georgia have retained Anthem Executive to lead a national search for the next president of Clayton State University (CSU). CSU offers employees professional opportunities and personal development in a diverse, inclusive environment.
Texas A&M-Kingsville University has retained the search firm to lead its search for a chief ethics and compliance officer.
Florida International University provost Ken Furton announced the search for the next dean of the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs, a top 50 ranked school of international and public affairs. The search and screen committee will be led by Brian Schriner, dean of the College of Communication, Architecture & The Arts. Anthem Executive was selected to assist in the recruitment efforts.
And finally, Texas Tech University selected Anthem Executive to lead its nationwide recruitment efforts to recruit its next dean of arts and sciences. The Anthem search team has placed many executives on behalf of Texas Tech University and system, including chancellor, president, and provost.
Anthem Executive, headquartered in Houston, serves clients across a range of business sectors, including higher education, health sciences, corporate and non-profit institutions, global software and technology, private equity, insurance, service and manufacturing, oil and gas, and others. Its consultants bring a combined 80 years’ experience in the search industry. The firm’s higher education practice spans the entire leadership spectrum. In other sectors, Anthem Executive covers roles from CEO and other C-suite leaders, board directors, vice presidents and director.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media