GW to establish president search committee by semester’s end

The University’s Board of Trustees plans this semester to establish a search committee responsible for choosing the replacement of President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. Trachtenberg will step down in July 2007 after 19 years as GW’s leader.

Board of Trustees Chairman Charles Manatt, who declined to discuss the specifics of what the board would look for in a new president, said the board has been conversing with Trachtenberg for more than a year about his plans for retirement, and that the decision was made final about three weeks ago.

The search committee will tentatively include nine board members, three faculty members, one student representative and possibly an emeritus trustee. Manatt said the board may ask the newly elected SA president, to be announced late Thursday night, to fill the search committee’s student representative position.

Board of Trustees Vice Chair Russell Ramsey will head the search committee. “The thing I would like to focus on at this moment is having (the search process) open and transparent and getting as much input from as many students, faculty and stakeholders as we can,” Manatt said.

Manatt also said he plans to ask each of the University’s colleges to choose a consultative representative who would work with the search committee’s faculty members.

“This is an outstanding position that will attract all kinds of top-notch applicants because of everything President Trachtenberg has done for the last 18 years,” said Donald Lehman, executive vice president for Academic Affairs.

“Ultimately, the University will look for someone who can raise funds, understand shared government and work well with the faculty to achieve continued academic excellence,” Lehman said.

Executive Vice President and Treasurer Louis Katz said he expected the new president to have the same broad goals as the current administration.

“The emphasis on the importance of education and research, improving the visibility of the institution, placing importance on the financial underpinnings of the institution – these goals will remain the same,” Katz said. “What might change is the emphasis of one program over another. Those specific goals will evolve over time.”

Lehman said the faculty as a whole will also elect a committee to advise and consult with the board throughout the process of selecting a new president.

“Once the applicant pool is narrowed to finalists, various constituencies will be able to have input in a decision which ultimately must be decided on and approved by the board,” Lehman added.

In addition to the selection committee, Lehman said it’s not unusual for a university to use the services of a search or consulting firm in conjunction with its own efforts to field applicants for the president position.

“Many times these firms can bring candidates to the table that otherwise would not have applied, or might not have known about the position,” Lehman said.

Former University President Lloyd Elliott, Trachtenberg’s predecessor, said he believes the new president should be someone with a background in higher education and academics, as opposed to someone with a background in public service or business. Before coming to GW, Trachtenberg was president of the University of Hartford for 11 years.

“The first priority (in selecting a University president) is that the person be education-oriented, academically educated and at home in a campus community,” said Elliott, who spent 23 years at GW, making him the second longest-serving president in GW history behind Cloyd Heck Marvin.

Regardless of what type of candidate the Board of Trustees and selection committee decide to hire, the newcomer will inevitably face challenges in his or her new role, Elliott said.

Elliot added “Coming into the presidency, I think a person just has to learn the institution, everything about it that he or she can.”

-Michael Barnett contributed to this report.

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