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Jenkins: new provost unlikely before July 1

Claire Heininger | Wednesday, February 23, 2005

It is unlikely that Notre Dame will choose a new provost before University Provost Nathan Hatch leaves to become the president of Wake Forest University on July 1, University President-elect Father John Jenkins said Tuesday.

“We’re not going to be constrained by that timeline,” said Jenkins, who chairs the seven-member committee charged with finding Hatch’s successor.

If necessary, Jenkins said, the search could extend into the fall, with an interim or acting provost – named in advance of July 1 – filling the role on a temporary basis.

The provost is elected by the Board of Trustees, whose next formal meeting is scheduled for the end of April. However, it would be “next to impossible” for a new provost to be named by that time, Jenkins said.

He stressed all candidates’ names would be kept confidential.

“We [the committee] agreed and committed ourselves not to discuss any specific individuals we will consider for our deliberations outside the committee,” Jenkins said. “We feel that’s essential to attract the strongest candidates so they will participate.”

Though the incoming president did not expect to be searching for a new second-ranking officer during his own year of transition, Jenkins recognized the importance of finding the right person to fill what he called a “critical, demanding job.”

“This must be my highest priority right now,” Jenkins said, “and [it] certainly will be my first priority until we find an excellent provost.”

Determining what qualities constitute that excellence will be the search committee’s next task, Jenkins said.

“We decided in the first several weeks of this search we will focus strictly on the qualities needed in a new provost at this time in Notre Dame’s history,” he said, adding the committee must consider not only the state of the University today, but what will be needed during at least the next five years.

Jenkins declined to list specific qualities he would personally seek in a provost, saying it is his role to listen to others’ input before forming a judgment.

“I think it’s important as chair to keep a very open mind,” he said.

However, the president-elect acknowledged the value of finding a provost who will complement his own strengths and the strengths of Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves, the third-ranking officer in the administration.

“In any working relationship you [try to seek] the skills you don’t have,” Jenkins said, adding that Affleck-Graves, who is not a member of the committee, will likely offer input on the search.

A letter Jenkins sent to the faculty last week asking for provost nominations has generated about 20 responses so far and should lead to more, he said.

“In general they are very thoughtful, helpful letters,” he said.

The committee does not have a formal overall plan for how frequently to convene, Jenkins said, but it will meet regularly with various councils and individuals – including Hatch himself on March 2 – to solicit their input. The committee, which includes Jenkins, five faculty members and one student, held its first meeting Monday to discuss procedural aspects of the search, Jenkins said.