Presidential Committee soon to reveal finalists

Illustration by Amelia Madarang

The Presidential Search Committee is seeking a new president for Lewis & Clark as President Wim Wiewel has begun planning his retirement. 

The committee is composed of nine Trustee Representatives, three faculty representatives, two staff representatives and Associated Students of Lewis & Clark President Sarah Lind-MacMillan ’22. Trustee Co-Chairs Paula Hayes ’92 and Patrick J. Mahaffy ’85 are currently leading the search committee. Summit, the team’s search firm partner, is aiding in the search.

According to Hayes, the presidential committee and Summit, as well as other committees, have been working hard to try and find a new president and have hosted the five campus input sessions. 

“The dynamic is actually wonderful in my opinion … and I’ll say we have been really committed and engaged and that’s been evident since the very beginning,” Hayes said.

In July and August 2021, the search committee hosted listening sessions to obtain community input. The goal was to gain a greater understanding of what LC needs in a president, and how this can be reflected in their search. 

“We try to go beyond what’s been done in the past,” Mahaffy said.  “Paula and I felt it really important to engage with the constituency groups, where there were students, faculty, deans, staff, beyond the selection of the committee members.” 

After hosting the five campus input sessions, the team was able to put together a position profile. The 13-page document outlined what the committee was searching for in a candidate, as well as the role and responsibilities that come with being president. The Position Profile also cites the college’s Strategic Plan and fundraising campaign, Exploring for the Global Good. According to the document, LC is searching for an “experienced, personable, and energetic higher education leader” who will continue “to execute and enhance the vision of the College.”

“A true commitment to education is really important to us, along with a proven track record as an 

administrator who … in their own institution may have had to deal with complex issues and some degree of change,” Mahaffy said. “The liberal arts model, to some, is under assault. And so, maintaining a commitment to it and adapting to it and dealing with those changes is really important to us.”

The Position Profile explains that a president must “Drive diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts for students, faculty, and staff.” The search committee explained what this looks like in practice. 

“One of the things that we are looking for is both a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” Hayes said. “But those are just words, we are also looking at their backgrounds and track records of success, or moving the needle in those areas with their institutions, and then also their just firm belief and commitment to those goals, and willingness to translate them regardless of what institution that they’re in.”

Another major concern, particularly for Mahaffy, who is chair of the finance committee, is the school’s finances and fundraising efforts. Part of the President’s role is taking the lead on fundraising. Mahaffy stressed that moving forward, a major part of the school’s plan is to continue fundraising campaigns, as most other colleges do. This is especially notable given that LC does not have a history of constant fundraising, and the current Exploring for the Global Good campaign is the school’s first major fundraiser in 20 years.

“Our new president is not only going to have to commit to continuing that campaign which is underway, but thinking hard about what we do next as a campaign,” Mahaffy said. “Turns out that fundraising for most colleges, for most universities, is a full time, 24/7 engagement. And I don’t think this would surprise anybody, once we complete this campaign, one should expect … there will be another campaign. It’s just normal at most institutions.”

At the start of the search process, Summit found potential candidates for the presidential position who fit the profile, which they then recommended to the Search Committee. 

“Our search partners at Summit, given these instructions, went out and found a whole lot of really interesting and eligible candidates,” Mahaffy said. “And so everything has gone as expected, now is the hard part of finalizing which of these candidates, all of whom, or the vast majority of whom meet that profile.”

Summit has been integral to the search process, in narrowing down the field, and also in locating and reaching out to strong candidates who would not have otherwise found the position given its nature, Hayes explained.

Beyond Summit’s findings, the Committee also solicited nominations from the community. There was also an option for people to self-nominate. Once the co-chairs have narrowed down the candidates further, they hope to meet the finalists. Although the candidates are from all over the country, the co-chairs find that in-person interaction provides invaluable insight into the candidates personalities.

“We find that personal interaction (is)so critical to what it is we’re trying to find for LC,” Mahaffy said. “(This) includes all  … these intangibles of who a person is, how they interact with people … (and) the broader part of the community — students, faculty, staff.”

Currently, the Search committee is unable to reveal information about the candidates, due to confidentiality. They did, however, say that they have a “sizable” and “diverse” group. 

“Given the candidates we have, we are optimistic that we will (introduce) …  a handful of candidates as finalists to the community,” Hayes said.

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