January 16, 2018 – West Virginia University at Parkersburg has retained RH Perry & Associates to lead its search for a new president, following the resignation of Fletcher Lamkin. Senior consultants Jesse Thompson and John Hutchinson are conducting the search.
“I would like to thank the board for putting their trust in us … to find a president that will be a great fit for where the institution is now and where the institution sees itself going in the next five to 10 to 15 years,” said Mr. Thompson. “Our job is to assist the institution in doing the background work and bringing qualified applicants to the institution’s search committee.”
One major key to finding the right individual for the job will the input from the board and the West Virginia University community as they look to the future. “What are the challenges as you look out some 10 years and what are the opportunities you think this new president will be able to take advantage of to be able to move this institution to its next level of greatness?” said Mr. Thompson.
The Search Process
“We listen to everybody and then we are able to put together an executive search profile and that serves as the blueprint for the entire search,” Mr. Thompson said. The goal is to come up with “a solid, highly qualified pool of candidates in terms of experience and in terms of what the candidate can bring to the institution.”
Then, RH Perry will begin the actual recruiting process, contacting people in higher education to inquire about their potential interest in the position or if they know someone who might be interested, said Mr. Thompson. The firm will also contact individuals who were involved in past searches. After conducting interviews with potential candidates, RH Perry will also have a recording of the conversations available to the university’s search committee for review.
The recruitment firm will work closely with the search committee to put together a qualified list of candidates as well as make sure the candidates are right for the position. “You are looking at whether that person is a good fit, the candidates are looking at if you are a good fit for them,” Mr. Thompson said, adding they want to make the process as transparent as possible.
Recruitment of Academia Presidents Rising
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.
Mr. Hutchinson said the firm also looks at the candidates’ salary expectations and whether they are being considered in any other searches. “The one thing we don’t want to happen is to select a candidate and find out at the last minute that the salary structure is inadequate or they are involved in another search and they are going to continue with that one,” he said. “We try to keep on top of all of those things.”
The search committee will select the best three to five candidates to bring on campus for interviews. RH Perry & Associates will conduct background checks, reference checks and talk with others who can provide insight about the individuals. The firm will also provide checks into potential criminal history, lawsuits, driving records, credit records and academic degrees.
As with the interviews, “all of that information is made available to the governing board,” Mr. Thompson said.
Higher Education Recruiters
Established in 1974, RH Perry has conducted over 1,000 higher education searches. The firm’s higher education practice consists of senior-level executives with a well-balanced mix of college and university presidential experience, senior administrative experience and executive search expertise. Founded by Robert H. Perry, the firm is headquartered in Asheville, NC, and has offices in California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Mr. Thompson has led, or participated in, a wide range of presidential and senior administrative higher education searches. His experience spans large and small, urban, suburban, and rural institutions nationwide. He has provided services to both single and multi-campus institutions.
Mr. Hutchinson, for his part, has over 35 years of experience in higher education as a teacher and administrator. In addition to his service as commissioner of Higher Education for the Montana University System, he has been president of three private colleges (Thomas University, Lincoln College, Beacon College) and one public university (Northern State University).
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