Search Committee Faces Challenges in Finding New UK President

LEXINGTON, Ky. – A presidential search committee, formed by the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees, is one month into an anticipated seven month process of finding a successor for Dr. Lee Todd, Junior. Trustee James Stuckert chairs the search committee; he was on a similar panel ten years ago.

"Things have changed, it's more challenging today, and I just think that's the nature of the beast if you will. I would suggest ten years from now; it's more challenging than it is today. God help the new president at the point in time. I think things are more complicated today. I think someone's has to have a guiding set of principles. And I call it a philosophical wavelength that's going to take you from A to Z."

The next president will oversee not only the numerous academic departments, but also a growing healthcare system, and a world-renowned athletics program. So at the first meeting of the presidential search committee last week, Stuckert invited all the college deans to come and provide their input. Late on a Friday afternoon, 15 deans came ready with their opinions.

"Leadership change has a way of affecting the university in perpetuity. So I think it's an exciting time. I'm ready for it, and I'm going to keep my eyes on it," says David Brennen, Dean of the College of Law.

His advice for the committee: find someone who will be focused on developing resources, with perspective on how the university should serve students, and who can bring academic leadership to campus.

"When we think about what we're doing at UK, our focus shouldn't be on how do we kind of eliminate the bottom in order to make UK better. We should really think about how do we attract the very best, the people who are leaving this state going to other states and keeping them here in Kentucky so they can get the best education possible, so they feel confident that by staying here, they're not missing out on something they would get at a Harvard, Columbia, or Yale."

Also at the meeting, Scott Smith, Dean of the College of Agriculture, suggested that the next president have administrative and organizational leadership qualities more like a CEO.

The University of Kentucky is not the only major academic institution looking for a president this year. Six other land-grant universities are in the hunt for a new leader. For the candidates who could be at the top of multiple search committee lists, Jim Stuckert says UK needs to be ready to show itself in the best light.

"You can read forever the attributes of our campus and campus life here, and the colleges, and our medical complex, the athletic program, and all of the above. But the candidate's got to have some perspectives already - and hopefully they're very positive but if there's some moment of doubt, I think this committee has to sell what a wonderful opportunity this is."

Over the next couple of weeks, the search committee will hire a consulting firm to seek out candidates. But Stuckert says they'll also take recommendations from faculty, staff, and the general public.

"That's a process that in conjunction with the consultants, consultant eventually, with the committee input and our Board of Trustees qualities and qualifications that they'd like to see in a president; hopefully we can come with a number for the University of Kentucky. I shouldn't say hopefully, the answer is, we will!'"