March 20, 2020 – R. William Funk & Associates, which specializes in recruitment for roles in higher education, has been selected by Central Washington University’s board of trustees to lead in its search for a new president. James L. Gaudino, who has served in that role since 2009, announced in late February that he will step down from his post on July 31, 2021.
During the past 35 years, R. William Funk & Associates has recruited more than 425 college and university presidents and chancellors, for institutions ranging from small liberal arts colleges to large public universities. “The firm has recruited chancellors/presidents for two-thirds of all public AAU universities,” Central Washington University said. “Additionally, it has been recognized by the Women’s Network of the American Council on Education (ACE) for its work in recruiting women and minorities to senior levels of higher education. The firm has broken the color and/or gender line in president searches at more than 40 institutions around the country.”
Board chair Ron Erickson said the trustees were appreciative of Dr. Gaudino providing early notice, as it provides the board time for a thorough, national search. He said experience and quality of service were key considerations in the selection of R. William Funk & Associates.
“We received a total of 15 proposals, which the executive committee narrowed to four, whom we interviewed,” Mr. Erickson said. “That process and speaking with Bill Funk’s previous clients made it clear to us that Mr. Funk would be a great choice for Central.”
Bill Funk, the firm’s chief executive officer, will join the board for a special meeting on March 31 as it establishes the procedures for the search. Mr. Erickson indicated that since the university’s last presidential search in 2008, there have been significant changes in the political, economic, demographic and technological environments.
“The president oversees an extraordinarily complex organization within a rapidly transforming environment,” said Erickson, noting the relatively recent inversion of state support models, the rapid shift in demography of university students, and the demand for and opportunities created by modern technology. “We need a resilient, innovative and compassionate leader who understands the challenges facing higher education and embraces the history and mission of Central.”
This month the board will hold a public meeting discussing the best strategies for an effective and comprehensive presidential search.
Founded in 1891, Central Washington University consists of four divisions: the president’s division, business and financial affairs, operations, and academic and student life (ASL). The school, which is located in Ellensburg, WA, has a total undergraduate enrollment of 11,222. Its setting is rural, and the campus size is 380 acres. Central Washington University ranked 55th for “Regional Universities West” in the 2020 edition of Best Colleges.
Higher Education Specialists
R. William Funk & Associates is an executive search firm specializing in higher education executive recruitment. It just recently placed Steven Leath as the 19th president of Auburn University. The firm is also undertaking the president search for Bradley University.
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Mr. Funk is one of the best known and most widely respected consultants serving higher education. Among the nearly 70 currently sitting presidents he has helped recruit are many of the nation’s most respected and admired university chief executives, including: Michael V. Drake, president of Ohio State University; Carol Folt, chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Robert Robbins, president of the University of Arizona; G.P. Peterson, president of Georgia Tech; Douglas Girod, chancellor of the University of Kansas; Ruth Watkins, president of the University of Utah; Renu Khator, president of the University of Houston; Neeli Bendapudi, president of the University of Louisville; and James Clements, president of Clemson University, among many others.
Big Business for Recruiters
Searching for academic leadership has become comparable to searching for leaders of any business enterprise, according to recruiters in the field. At a time when many academic leaders are retiring or leaving their posts to pursue other interests, the competition to replace them has grown intense. Executive search firms provide universities with guidance when filling these critical roles.
“At a very basic level, colleges and universities typically only conduct president or chancellor searches once every seven or eight years,” said Mr. Funk. “They don’t have the internal expertise or the organization to conduct these searches themselves.” When the need to conduct a president search arises, he added, “boards will reach out to search firms such as ours to help them lead it.” The search process, he concluded, is “complex, fragile, and nuance-laden,” and search firms simply have the expertise to get the job done.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media