Selection of a new Kansas University chancellor to succeed retiring Chancellor Robert Hemenway is an extremely important matter. A truly top-flight selection will pay dividends for the university, for Lawrence and for the state for years to come, while a poor or mediocre choice is sure to shortchange and handicap the university, Lawrence and the state in many ways.
The Kansas Board of Regents has announced members of the chancellor’s search committee, and it will be up to these individuals, with the aid of advice for a sure-to-be-hired professional search firm, to come up with three to five finalists to forward to the Regents.
As has been noted several times in Journal-World editorials and opinion pieces, it is essential those on the search committee act more as “recruiters” than as merely screeners of resumes submitted by people expressing an interest in the job.
Members of the committee should scour the country, learning about the true future “all-stars” in the academic field, individuals who have distinguished themselves in various academic research arenas, as well as those who have exhibited excellence in various business fields. There shouldn’t be any preconceived limitations on who might be considered for the KU post.
There should be one governing principle: The person should be recognized for his or her excellence and should be a person with vision, who can articulate that vision, be a good communicator and motivate people. He or she should be a strong, charismatic leader who is more concerned about being surrounded by all-stars than in hogging the spotlight. And they should be comfortable living in Kansas.
Search committee members should be leery of candidates merely looking for greener pastures or looking to be replanted. Care should be given not to rely on leftovers from other search efforts at other universities.
The KU search committee is a nice group of people. Chances are, the KU Alumni Association, KU Endowment Association and the KU administration all were asked to suggest individuals, because there is little chance the Regents were acquainted with all those selected. The group reflects what the university wants, and the makeup of the committee offers a pretty good idea of what to expect in the way of results.
Obviously, emphasis should be on finding someone whose primary concern and interest is to help lead and build the academic/research excellence of the school.
Just as clear, however, is that the role and importance of athletic excellence will loom large in the background because a former interim athletic director and the strongest advocate of hiring current KU Athletic Director Lew Perkins both are on the search committee.
It is interesting that neither of two former KU chancellors, Archie Dykes and Gene Budig, were asked whether they would be interesting in being considered for the committee. Whether David Wescoe, son of the late Chancellor Clarke Wescoe and a former president of the KU Alumni Association, was asked is not known. Clay Blair and Bill Docking, two men considered to be the best recent Regents chairmen, apparently were not invited. Was a powerful, well-connected KU graduate and business leader, such as Forrest Hoglund considered?
Did officials really want a powerful committee, or did they prefer a nice group of people who would rely primarily on the recommendations of a professional search group? Three of the alumni members of the group live far away, and it is questionable whether they have a full understanding of the academic environment in Kansas.
KU must strengthen its position as the state’s flagship academic institution and improve its academic position within the Big 12 conference.
The individual selected as the university’s 17th chancellor will, to a large degree, determine what kind of university KU will become in the next 10 to 20 years, and the excellence and success of this person will be the legacy of those on the search committee.