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SMC continues with presidential search

Anneliese Woolford | Wednesday, August 27, 2003

The search for a successor to Saint Mary’s President Marilou Eldred has progressed during the summer, maintaining the search process schedule instituted last April.

The College’s Presidential Search committee and Board of Trustees began the process after Eldred announced March 5 that she intended to retire from her position. She agreed to stay on until a successor is named.

In early July, the Saint Mary’s Board of Trustees hired Korn/Ferry International to conduct a search for a qualified candidate to fill the position.

The firm was chosen based on its notability and experience, said Colleen Ryan, a Saint Mary’s trustee and chair of the Presidential Search committee. Korn/Ferry International demonstrates an understanding of the College’s needs and holds an impressive record of success in finding presidents for colleges and universities, she said.

Based out of offices in 40 countries, Korn/Ferry International is currently the world’s leading executive search firm. Its consultants have placed over 200 presidents and chancellors of major colleges and universities throughout the world.

The firm works closely with the College’s Presidential Search committee, composed of members from both the Saint Mary’s and South Bend communities.

“This is an important transition in the life of any institution,” said Nancy Cook, managing director of Korn/Ferry International’s Philadelphia office in a July 7 press release. “At Saint Mary’s, the next president will be in a position to build upon the momentum and successes begun under the leadership of President Eldred.”

Cook, who specializes in the recruitment of senior executives for universities, health systems and other non-profit entities, is leading the Saint Mary’s search until a president-elect is named.

“She’s been very aggressive for us and we’re pleased with her work,” Ryan said. “She is the product of an all-women’s college as well, so she knows what we’re looking for.”

Korn/Ferry International and the search committee posted a position advertisement in the Aug. 1 issue of “The Chronicle of Higher Education.”The advertisement lists qualities and attitudes an ideal candidate should possess, in addition to providing background information on the College and plans it holds for the future. The advertisement also states that “women and minorities are strongly encouraged to apply.”

“That’s a very standard procedure,” Ryan said. “It’s an equal employment statement, so as a committee, we chose to put it at the bottom of our advertisement. It has in no way deterred men from applying for the job.”

Ryan said the committee is pleased with the response generated from the Chronicle and will look into other publications if future advertising is needed, but said she is pleased with the response generated so far.

“The Chronicle was chosen because we get our best exposure from that magazine; it reaches a broader sector,” she said. Steady candidate nominations are also the result of a mailing sent to students, alumnae, Saint Mary’s “friends” and peer institutions. “The candidate pool looks good,” Ryan said. “We’re really encouraged.”

The search committee will discuss a second round of candidates at its next meeting on Sept. 13. A goal is set to announce three presidential candidates to the Board of Trustees in October.

The latest development in the presidential search is a website designed both to inform potential candidates and the college community as well as generate additional nominations.

“[The Web site] serves students, faculty and alums that are able to come and see what we’re doing,” Ryan said. “Candidates looking at the school can come on, see the position specifications, get an overview of what the school is. … It’s just a great way to get our name out there.”

The site will be updated regularly and will reveal the three final presidential candidates once they are named, said Ryan.

For now, she is confident the search process will remain on schedule and is looking to the next step.

“Now that we have candidates and when we identify the three to bring forward, we’ll invite them to campus to meet faculty, staff and students so people can get an idea of who they are.”

The College’s Board of Trustees retains its original goal to name a president-elect this December.