Presidential Search Committee hires consulting firm

The Presidential Search Committee has taken its first steps in finding a replacement for President Schapiro. In accordance with its plans to keep its undertakings visible to the Williams community, Greg Avis ’80, committee chair, sent out a student-wide e-mail announcing the Committee’s decision to use a consulting firm to aid in the search.

“Consulting firms can help solicit input from the community,” said Jim Kolesar, assistant to the president for Public Affairs. Students, faculty, staff and alumni input will be considered.

The decision to use a consulting firm comes despite the current financial crisis facing the college. “It’s well worth the financial investment,” Kolesar said. The Committee met for the first time on Jan. 22 and voted to embark upon a search for a viable search consulting firm. The use of such a firm can be an expensive endeavor, but the Committee believes that its benefits outweigh the costs.

“A consulting firm can be very helpful in identifying candidates since they have networks of contacts,” Kolesar said. Search consulting firms are also used to find references for candidates, though Kolesar added that “the Committee members will call and interview references themselves.”

A sub-group of the Committee was formed to select a consulting firm. “The sub-committee interviewed several firms and found that Isaacson, Miller would be the best firm for us,” Kolesar said. Isaacson, Miller is a Boston-based firm founded in 1982. The firm focuses mainly on searches for non-profit organizations and educational institutions.

The firm is currently conducting two searches for the College: one for a new president and a second to find a new vice president for Alumni Relations and Development to replace Steve Birrell. John Isaacson, the firm’s founder, will head the presidential search.

Isaacson recently worked on successful searches to find a new CEO for the Smithsonian Institution, a president and rector for Central European University in Hungary and a chancellor for the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Isaacson is currently involved in searches for Boston University Medical Center, Dartmouth College, the University of California at San Francisco and the University of Miami. Aiding Isaacson in the search will be Maggie Gilmore ’05, a former Junior Advisor who is currently a Senior Associate at Isaacson, Miller.

The Committee has also been taking steps to involve the Williams community in the search. “Face-to-face meetings will begin as the search moves forward,” said Kolesar. In the meantime, a Web site has been set up to solicit information from the community. This site asks for input on three questions: “What significant short and long-term issues should the next Williams presidency address?”, “What qualities of leadership, including professional and person attributes, will the next president need to be successful?” and “Are there other considerations for the search, including suggestions of highly qualified candidates, that you would like to share?”

The Committee hopes to create a description of the College and a list of qualities that the community is looking for in the next president in order to aid Isaacson, Miller in its search.