William Funk & Associates Places First Black President at Rutgers

Jonathan Holloway, the provost of Northwestern University, is expected to be named the leader of the New Brunswick, NJ university today. Diversity will be a key focus of the job as Rutgers focuses on serving its students and rising to the next level.

January 21, 2020 – William Funk & Associates, which specializes in recruitment for roles in higher education, has assisted in the placement of Jonathan Holloway as the first black president of Rutgers University. He was selected from a pool of more than 300 applicants. R. William Funk, president of the Dallas-based recruitment firm, led the search.

Robert L. Barchi recently told the board of governors that the 2019-2020 academic year will be his last as university president. He was recruited by R. William Funk & Associates as Rutgers’ 20th president in 2012.

A formal announcement on Dr. Holloway’s hiring will take place this afternoon pending formal approval by the university’s board of governors and board of trustees, according to a high-ranking university official.

Students and faculty members had suggested the university make diversity a priority in the hiring process, saying Rutgers leadership should reflect the student body. Nearly 35 percent of Rutgers students are white.

“We do need somebody who values diversity as much as the rest of us do,” Mark Angelson, chair of the board of governors, said early in the search process. “Diversity is precious to Rutgers, and whoever comes in to do this job is going to need to be sensitive to that.”

“During our conversations, Dr. Holloway clearly showed he had the vision and experience to put the needs of students first and lead Rutgers to the next level,” said Phil Murphy, governor of New Jersey.

Dr. Holloway is currently the chief academic officer and provost of Northwestern University. He is professor of history and African-American studies and specializes on post-emancipation U.S. history with a focus on social and intellectual history.

Before moving to Northwestern, Dr. Holloway was the dean of Yale College and Edmund S. Morgan professor of African American studies, history, and American studies at Yale University. During his tenure at Yale, the school faced student protests that attracted nationwide attention. According to The New York Times, Dr. Holloway was at the center of a storm of student protests that were set off by an email in 2015 from a faculty member who suggested that students should be allowed to wear whatever Halloween costumes they wanted, regardless of whether they offended someone. Many students considered the email to be culturally offensive, and the controversy sparked debate about the university’s history and the way it has dealt with race. Dr. Holloway, who became the first black dean of Yale in 2014, embraced some student demands, like calling for a more diverse faculty.

Dr. Holloway received a bachelor’s degree with honors in American Studies from Stanford University and a doctorate in history from Yale University. He began his academic career at the University of California, San Diego, before joining the faculty at Yale in 1999. Dr. Holloway serves on boards of the Chicago Botanic Garden, Illinois Humanities, the National Humanities Alliance, the Society for United States Intellectual History, and the Organization of American Historians.


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With Dr. Holloway’s appointment today, the number of minority presidents will push higher, although they still make up less than a fifth of all college and university presidents, according to the most recent data published by the American Council on Education. Also, just eight percent of the 17 percent of minority presidents are black, Afro-Caribbean or African-American, according to the council.

Related: To Improve Diversity, Recruiting Sector Must Set a New Course

Founded in 1766, Rutgers is the nation’s eighth oldest college. Rutgers University-New Brunswick is the flagship campus, with an enrollment of more than 42,000 students (about 33,650 undergraduates and 8,600 graduate students). The school employs about 10,000 full- and part-time faculty and staff. Its annual budget is upwards of $1.7 billion.

Higher Education Specialists

William Funk & Associates is an executive search firm specializing in higher education executive recruitment. The firm has conducted more than 400 searches for university and college presidents and chancellors over the last 35 years. It just recently placed Steven Leath as the 19th president of Auburn University. The firm is also undertaking the president search for Bradley University.

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.


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On Wisconsin, a University of Wisconsin publication, proclaimed in an article that “…Funk is higher education’s ultimate insider, its answer to the Kevin Bacon game: his list of friends and acquaintances includes the top officials at nearly every major American university. Pick any school on the map and you’re likely to find no more than a few degrees of Bill Funk. He has become the most highly regarded search consultant in higher education.”

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.

Related: Wilton & Bain Joins Inclusive Culture Pledge

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

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