Gates tells presidential search committee to seek someone who will stay

Contact Reporterwwright@vagazette.com

Members of the Presidential Search Committee tasked with finding William and Mary's next president met Tuesday and heard from committee leaders about where they are with the search.

Chancellor Robert Gates, who is on the committee, called in from Seattle to attend the meeting. Gates is familiar with the demands of being a college president: He led Texas A&M University from 2002 to 2006.

Finding candidates who are comfortable spending many years at the college is important, Gates said, and choosing someone who might leave for the first opportunity at a larger or more prestigious university would be a mistake.

"You need someone who doesn't see this as a stepping stone," Gates said. "You don't want a gunslinger."

President Taylor Reveley was no gunslinger: When he retires at the end of the 2017-18 academic year, he'll have spent 10 years at the helm.

The 19-member search committee includes faculty, staff, members of the college's Board of Visitors, one current student, and one recent graduate.

Watkins said that he thought the college was especially fortunate to have avoided a rash of presidents who only stay at the college for a short time.

"The tenure of college presidents seem to be going down," he said. "Though here, we've enjoyed, for the most part, the long tenure of presidents. It's been 10 years, 12 years."

Staying for an extended time is a requirement for presidents who want to make real change on their universities, Gates said.

"You cannot realistically affect things in a university in less than 5 to 10 years," he said.

Gates served as Secretary of Defense under president Barack Obama and George W. Bush. He implored his fellow committee members to consider the importance of someone who is a proven administrator, especially one with experience in higher education.

Coming into either government or higher education from an outside industry makes for a difficult adjustment, he said.

"We are seeing the results of people who are going into government who have never been in government before," he said. "It's different, and it's hard."

The 19-member search committee includes faculty, staff, members of the college's Board of Visitors, one current student, and one recent graduate. They plan to recommend three finalists to the college's full Board by this fall.

In three separate April 19 meetings, the search committee met with faculty, students, and staff for feedback on what they should look for in the college's next president.

The comments ranged from looking for someone who understands why diversity matters on a college campus to finding a leader who is intimately familiar with academia.

H. Thomas Watkins, the chairman of the search committee and vice rector of the college's Board of Visitors, said he felt the committee was sticking pretty consistently to their timeline.

"We're continuing at a good clip," he said. "I think we're doing well."

Wright can be reached by phone at 757-345-2343.

Timeline

Here is the remainder of the timeline of the search committee as they look for the college's next president.

Summer: The committee will choose a search firm and interview members of the college's community about possible candidates for the job.

Fall: Committee members will whittle down their list of candidates and begin the background check and screening processes. After a set of interviews, they'll recommend a set of finalists to the full Board of Visitors.

Winter '18: The Board of Visitors will choose the college's next president, devise a way to introduce them to community, and create a way to transition from Taylor Reveley's retirement to the start of the next president's tenure.

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