Witt/Kieffer Names Board Services Chair

November 17, 2015 – Witt/Kieffer has transitioned Jena Abernathy to lead the firm’s board services practice as managing partner/chair of board services. She also serves on the firm’s board of directors. Jim Gauss formerly led the practice. As a senior partner, Mr. Gauss will remain involved with the firm’s board services practice, as well as its healthcare practice.

Ms. Abernathy, based in Witt/Kieffer’s Atlanta office, began her career with the firm four years ago. In her new role, she will help corporate and other boards identify and recruit healthcare executives to fill key membership positions. She will also support healthcare boards in recruiting talent. Ms. Abernathy will continue to serve as a senior partner in the firm’s healthcare practice, specializing in coaching candidates and assisting clients in identifying board members, CEOs, presidents  and other C-suite leaders for hospitals, health systems, academic medical centers, and foundations, as well as manufacturing, distribution and healthcare corporations.

“We are pleased to recognize Jena’s commitment to Witt/Kieffer through her new position,” said Charles W.B. Wardell, president and CEO. “Jena is instrumental to the growth of the firm and, in particular, the healthcare practice, where we continue to serve the most complex healthcare systems in the nation. We also serve individual healthcare executives, and feel it is critical that they play a larger role in board governance across industries. Given her exceptional experience and leadership capabilities, we are better suited to serve and counsel our clients and candidates under her guidance.”

Ms. Abernathy begins her new position with over 25 years of senior level executive management experience. Prior to joining Witt/Kieffer, she served as chief administrative officer at Premier, Inc., where she led comprehensive human resources and administrative services, including communications, public relations and marketing. She also held senior leadership positions at Fisher Scientific International and General Medical Corporation, where she served on the company’s executive operating board, led a total reorganization and spearheaded quality and customer service initiatives.

Witt/Kieffer has also promoted Robin Mamlet to senior partner and managing director of the firm’s education practice.

With nearly 30 years of academic administration experience, Ms. Mamlet joined Witt/Kieffer in 2005 and has conducted leadership searches across the higher education landscape.

In her new role, she will lead the strategic direction and operations of the education practice, ensuring that colleges and universities find the highest level of quality in their next generation of leadership while directing searches for presidents, provosts, deans, CFOs, chief advancement officers, chief public affairs officers and communications, diversity, student affairs and enrollment officers.

Ms. Mamlet came to Witt/Kieffer after 23 years in academic administration, most recently as dean of admission and financial aid at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA.

“Robin has a demonstrated successful track record of helping our clients navigate today’s complex and ever-evolving field of academia,” said Mr. Wardell. “Robin brings a deep understanding of today’s academia market forces and understands the qualities required for effective leadership in today’s complex world of education and non-profit management. We are confident that this experience will continue to help guide our clients in today’s marketplace.”

Witt/Kieffer’s education recruitment team identifies higher education and college preparatory school leaders who understand the complex issues facing both public and private institutions.

Recently, the firm placed presidents for University of Washington, Roosevelt University, Virginia Wesleyan College, and the University of Toledo.

In September, Witt/Kieffer bulked up its growing education search sector practice with the addition of four new industry experts. Charlene Aguilar joined as a consultant in South Bend, Indiana. She formerly served as associate director of the annual fund at the University of Chicago Law School, as director of undergraduate admissions at Santa Clara and as school relations counselor for undergraduate recruitment at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Jennifer Desjarlais joined Witt/Kieffer as a consultant where she supports leadership searches across all academic areas, specializing in enrollment and admissions for colleges and universities across the nation. She had been the dean of admission and financial aid at Wellesley College. Melissa Fincher, based in Columbus, OH, joined as an associate in the firm’s education practice. She previously held the role of talent and organizational development consultant with Ohio State University. Ben Haden was named a senior associate at Witt/Kieffer and works from the firm’s San Diego office. Previously, he served as an executive recruiter for the University of California.

Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media

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