Earlier this week a Journal-World editorial focused on all the good things Jackie Davis has accomplished during the past seven years as director of the Lied Center at Kansas University. This was prompted by the announcement Davis will be leaving September 1 to assume the directorship of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.
Davis did a superb job in launching the Lied Center and building it into one of the finest arts presenters on any United States campus. She was an innovator, she brought a diverse range of programming to the Lied Center stage and the Lied has become a true cultural center for this part of the country.
Many have commented how the Lied serves as a "front porch" for the university. It attracts a wide range of individuals with varying interests, and of various ages, to the university, many for the first time. Their initial experience at the Lied often times causes these people to return again and to take a greater interest in the university and its wide range of programs.
This is the same situation relative to the university's athletic program. Many of the school's major financial contributors first developed an interest in KU through its athletic programs, eventually broadening their scope of interests across the Mount Oread campus.
Now that Davis has announced her upcoming move to New York, it is terribly important every effort be made to find and secure the services of an individual who will build on what Davis has helped create with the goal of making the Lied an even finer cultural center a center reaching out to an even wider area and a center offering the best in cultural performances.
The Lied must get better, not just stay the same, or worst of all, slide in its level of excellence. As has been noted, the Lied currently is ranked among the 10 top university arts performance presenters in the United States. It is one of Kansas' finest assets and it is critical it maintains this lofty position, or climb even higher in the eyes of the cultural community.
Christina Hixson, trustee of the Lied Foundation Trust, has been extremely generous in her support of the Lied Center. She has played a major role in encouraging Davis to expand the Center's presence throughout the state and to provide free tickets to those who otherwise would not have the opportunity to see performances such as those staged in the Lied. She also has provided funds and helped bring some of the nation's most talented performers to the Lied. It's been a winning combination of many individuals but Davis and Hixson have led the way and provided the enthusiasm and foresight.
Hopefully a powerful and knowledgeable committee will be assigned the task of identifying a top flight group of possible Lied Center directors. Those on such a committee must aim high and the person selected should merit the respect and support of Hixson.
This is an important position and one which should command top priority by university officials.
Another open position at KU is the directorship of the Dole Institute for Public Service and Public Policy.
Here again, it is important to select an individual who through his or her knowledge, skills, past record and reputation will send a signal throughout the country as to the level of importance KU places on the Dole Institute.
For one reason or other the chancellor rejected the recommendations of the screening committee or, maybe one, two or three of those recommended by the committee turned down an offer by Hemenway.
Whatever the case, if the Dole Institute is to enjoy the national or international recognition desired by many, it must attract a director who is known for his or her excellence.
Filling positions such as those at the Lied and the Dole Institute and attracting extremely able persons, is a tough job. There are many considerations such as the geographic location of Lawrence; compensation; the likely possibility of a spouse having a very good job at their current location and the difficulty of finding a similar job in this area; opportunities provided by the KU positions; the "chemistry" between a possible director and others at the University; as well as many other factors.
In both the Lied and Dole positions, it would seem a strong, knowledgeable and highly respected group of off-campus individuals would be helpful in identifying and selecting nominees to be considered by the chancellor. Such persons could be immense help to university people involved in the search process.
These are two extremely important positions and the only consideration in developing a body of nominees should be the overall excellence of possible candidates. Age, gender, sexual orientation, race should not be the determining factors in who becomes director of the Lied Center or the Dole Institute.