Wheless Partners Selected by Wichita State to Find President

June 11, 2019 – With the new academic year coming to a close, 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, increasingly the case, globalization.

The Kansas Board of Regents recently tapped executive recruitment firm Wheless Partners to lead the search for the next president of Wichita State University (WSU). John Bardo, the school’s past president, passed away earlier this spring.

Last month, the regents appointed 20 members to the committee that will assist and advise the board in the search. The committee includes representation from university students, faculty, staff, alumni and the local community. Steve Clark, a former regent and chairman of Clark Investment Group, was named as chair of the search committee. Mr. Clark previously chaired the search committee that helped hire Dr. Bardo.

“The members of the search committee possess a wealth of experience and bring a variety of important perspectives to the search process,” said regent Mark Hutton, vice chair of the search committee. “I’m confident the committee will identify several highly qualified finalists to recommend to the board.”

Search committee members from the campus community include Kitrina Miller, student body president; Brandon Eckerman, president of the Student Ambassador Society; Rhonda K. Lewis, professor and chair of the psychology department; Aleksander Sternfeld-Dunn, director of the School of Music; Shirley Lefever, dean of the College of Applied Studies; Camille Childers, director of student health services; and Lou Heldman, vice president of strategic communications and member of the board of directors of the Wichita State Innovation Alliance.

Search committee members from the WSU Foundation and Wichita community include Alicia Thompson, superintendent of Wichita public schools; Lyndon Wells, chair of the advisory board of the WSU Campus of Technical and Applied Science; Jerry Aaron, member of the WSU National Advisory Committee; Dan Unruh, partner with InSite Real Estate Group and adjunct professor with the WSU finance, real estate and decision sciences department; Tom Gentile president and chief executive officer of Spirit AeroSystems; John O’Leary, vice president of engineering at Airbus Americas; David D. Mitchell, managing partner of Mitchell & Richards, member of the WSU National Advisory Council and board member of the Wichita State Innovation Alliance; Debbie Haynes, chair of the WSU Foundation board of directors; Steve Feilmeier, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Koch Industries; Sheryl Wohlford, president and co-owner of Automation-Plus, member of the WSU board of trustees and member of the WSU National Advisory Council.

Related: Why Universities Have Stepped Up Efforts to Involve Search Firms

Search committee members representing the regents include Mark Hutton, regent, and Blake Flanders, KBOR president and CEO.


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.

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The search firm is charging the university $80,000, plus expenses, for the search, according to the WSU student newspaper, the Sunflower. The fee will be paid in three installments, said the newspaper, citing the Wheless contract. The first installment was paid on May 22. Additional fees are expected to come to about $15,000.

Related: Recruitment for Higher Education Leaders Heats Up and Shifts

In fiscal year 2018, Dr. Bardo received $384,000, said the Sunflower, citing the KanView database.

Experienced Executive Recruiters

Wheless Partners, founded in 1986 by Mike Wheless, 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. Wheless Partners has offices in New York, Atlanta, Birmingham, Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver and San Francisco.

Related: Academic Sector Pumping Big Fees Into Search Firms

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

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