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Archive for Monday, December 8, 2008

Former chancellors say next KU leader will need financial acumen

December 8, 2008

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Chancellor Robert Hemenway's career at KU

KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway told the Lawrence Noon Rotary Club on Monday that KU underwent a fair amount of change during his tenure.

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Chancellor Hemenway resignation transcript ( .PDF )

Robert Hemenway's career at KU

KU's 16th chancellor, Robert Hemenway, announced Dec. 8, 2008, that he would retire at the end of the current academic year. He's been chancellor for 14 years.

Previous Kansas University chancellors say the school’s next leader should come to Mount Oread with a record of stellar academic standing, astute political skills and, perhaps most of all, both a strong willingness and proven ability to secure necessary resources.

That’s cash — the money necessary to keep research rolling, faculty and staff working and students learning despite an deepening economic recession and ongoing eroding of state support for higher education.

“That’s going to be the challenge, and how you pick for that challenge is not entirely clear to me right now — unless you know of a Barack Obama that wants to be a university president,” said Larry Chalmers, who served as KU chancellor from 1969 to 1972. “But it is that kind of ability to gain universal support in difficult times that you’ll need.”

The search for such an individual will fall to members of the Kansas Board of Regents, now that Robert Hemenway has announced plans to retire in June as chancellor, after 14 years at KU’s administrative helm. He plans to take a yearlong sabbatical to write a book, then return to teaching.

Others who preceded Hemenway in the second-floor office at Strong Hall offer praise for the outgoing chancellor’s work. Chalmers noted that Hemenway’s longevity “speaks for itself.” Archie Dykes, chancellor from 1973 to 1980, applauded Hemenway’s “focus on classroom teaching, which I think is very important,” and for boosting levels of outside grants and contracts.

Added Gene Budig, who preceded Hemenway by serving as KU chancellor from 1981 to 1994: “Chancellor Hemenway has served long and well, and he richly deserves an opportunity to teach and write. His long tenure underscores his deep commitment to students, faculty, staff and alumni. He has earned our thanks and lasting respect.”

Looking ahead, Dykes said, the next chancellor will need to be a “capable academic leader,” someone poised to lead KU to greater academic stature. That’s first and foremost.

But getting there, he said, means generating both private and public support.

“The fundraising is more important now more than ever,” Dykes said. “The academic achievement will depend more than ever … on the ability to raise financial support for the institution.”

Thankfully, Dykes said, KU is connected with an exceptional endowment association, one whose breadth of resources and longtime commitment to excellence should prove attractive to job candidates.

“It has enormous capabilities,” said Dykes, who now serves on several corporate boards, including Pepsi Americas. “I would expect that would be one of the first qualities that KU would mention.”

Chalmers, who served as president of the Art Institute of Chicago after leaving KU, said that the next chancellor’s focus likely would be dominated by financial unrest, not unlike the social unrest he’d faced as chancellor during the Vietnam era.

“It has to be somebody who can gain a rapport with the students and faculty and the governing board, because that’s the only way you can make tough decisions,” Chalmers said. “And it’s not entirely fun to eliminate programs or cut back on staff or any of the other things that are usually associated with balancing a budget.”

And those decisions are coming, he said.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt about it,” Chalmers said.

Comments

KEITHMILES05 5 years, 9 months ago

The best person needs to be selected. That means man or woman and any race.

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lily 5 years, 9 months ago

You said it keithmile. Let's not meet quotas etc let's go for the best qualified all around.

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KU_cynic 5 years, 9 months ago

It doesn't take a financial genius to look at the likely state budgets for the next few years, the recently slammed KUEA endowment portfolio, and the current cost base at KU in terms of salaries and benefits to see that KU is in for a heap of short-to-medium financial trouble. It's not like trying to value a credit default swap; it's just simple arithmetic.The next KU chancellor has to be committed to two strategies.First and foremost, identify areas at KU to kill off and then redirect resources to more vital and thriving programs. The cuts needed for the next two years cannot be financed by some overall hiring freezes, reducing some travel expenses, and laying off some admins, for example. Instead, academic areas whose enrollments or abilities to self-fund are disproportionately small relative to their costs will simply have to go. Yes, affected people will be mad and hurt, but more deserving areas can better persevere. Second, the next KU chancellor has to upgrade KU’s ability to raise private funds for academic programs, much as the Athletic Corp.’s fundraiser capabilities have been enhanced recently. In spite of the current economic climate, KU needs a billion dollar capital campaign. Currently, KU doesn’t have the personnel or other institutional assets to pull this off.

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