Committee searches for new president

Following President Schapiro’s Dec. 16 announcement that he will be leaving the College to become the president of Northwestern, the Board of Trustees formed the 2009 Presidential Search Committee, which will meet for the first time tomorrow. The Committee is chaired by Greg Avis ’80.

The Committee consists of trustees, members of the faculty and staff, students, alumni and a secretary, and is a “cross-section of the Williams community,” according to Avis. The Committee is comprised of students Alan Arias ’10 and Lizzy Brickley ’10, trustees Valda Christian ’92, E. David Coolidge III ’65, Michael Eisenson ’77, Stephen Harty ’73, Jonathan Kraft ’86 and A. Clayton Spencer ’77, faculty Andrea Danyluk, Stephen Fix, Laurie Heatherington, Protik Majumder, librarian David Pilachowski, alumni Christopher Giglio ’89 and Sarah Underhill ’80 and Committee Secretary Charles Dew ’58.

The Committee will begin its search by soliciting input from the community with frequent campus-wide e-mails. “The committee has a strong desire to seek wide consultation across campus throughout the search process,” Pilachowski said. “At Thursday’s meeting, we will begin to explore opportunities to hear from students, faculty, staff and alumni.”

In the last two presidential searches, an outside consulting firm was used. Whether the current committee will use a similar firm will be discussed at Thursday’s meeting. “Many places bring in outside consulting, but it’s also expensive,” Dew said. “We will look at what they tell us they can do for us while also trying to watch the budget.”

Avis said that the Committee will “operate on the possibility of having a new president in place by this summer.” He added, however, that the Committee’s search will continue “as long as it takes to find the very best person for the job.” Due to the unusual timing of the presidential search during the academic year, it may be difficult to find a replacement by June 30, when Schapiro is scheduled to leave the College. In the case that no president is found in time, it will be up to the Board of Trustees to appoint an interim president, who will serve until the Committee has completed its search.

Because the Committee is still in its initial stages, specific criteria for potential candidates have not yet been identified, but Schapiro and his predecessors have set an “awfully high bar,” Avis said. “The school is in a much different position than it was in 1999,” he added, noting the ongoing campaign to increase diversity on campus and the recent major fundraising effort.

“Williams has certain core values, including a commitment to first-rate undergraduate liberal arts education, need-blind admissions and diversity,” Dew said. “Williams has a humane and democratic ethos; the president will have to realize that this is a very collegial enterprise. You can’t run Williams the way a CEO runs a corporation.”

Several Committee members emphasized that the next president will need the capability to address the financial challenges facing the College in the upcoming years. “The new president will have to be a good, level-headed person to be able to cope with whatever comes down the pike,” Dew said.

The Committee’s ultimate goal is to “identify a small pool of exceptional candidates best suited to serve as our new president,” Pilachowski said. The Committee’s recommendation will be passed on to the Board of Trustees, which is responsible for making the final selection.