As the presidential search committee mulls more than 100 nominations for the next University president, some of GW’s top administrators have their own ideas about the next person to fill the job.
In April, University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg announced he would be stepping down as president when his contract is up in July 2007. The Board of Trustees is in the process of searching for a new president with the help of a higher education hiring firm.
Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, arrived with Trachtenberg in Foggy Bottom in 1988. Next year, Chernak will be working with a new University president for the first time in almost 20 years.
Chernak, after attending three of the public forums on the presidential search, said he found the criteria demanding. “(To) satisfy completely the combined agendas of those offering advice would require the improbable identification of a new president who was superhuman,” he said. The search committee consulted Chernak and other administrators during private interviews at the beginning of the search process.
Several officials said Trachtenberg serves as their model for the incoming president.
“President Trachtenberg has set the standard for me,” said Vice President for Communications Michael Freedman. “He has more energy than any two other people I know, and he has accomplished more during his tenure at GW than perhaps any other university president in the country.”
Freedman added that the next president should “ideally be Superman or Superwoman.”
Louis Katz, GW’s Executive Vice President and Treasurer, praised Trachtenberg on his almost two decades at the helm of GW and said with new leadership, things will change.
“(The next president) will be a person very different from Trachtenberg, but that’s good because it is going to be for a different time,” he said.
“I prefer a president with ‘real world’ experience but with a keen knowledge of academics,” Provost and Vice President for Health Affairs John Williams said. “Give me a highly successful person in higher education, business, corporate leadership, etc., who has a very fast learning curve.”
Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman said he prefers a candidate to have a strong academic background.
“I personally prefer that we seek a president who has been or is an outstanding scholar and who has had experience as a department chair, perhaps as a dean, but certainly as a chief academic officer,” he said.
On the issue of celebrity appeal in the search process, many officials said it was not relevant.
Freedman said it should not be taken into consideration, and Williams pointed out that “celebrities often fail at non-celebrity.”
While Chernak and Lehman both said that a celebrity president might be “nice,” they were quick to state that it should not trump the other necessary criteria.
“(Celebrity) is certainly not sufficient for the selection of a university president,” Lehman said.
The Presidential Search Committee has been charged by the Board of Trustees to refer some candidates to the body by Jan. 2007. Then the Board will vote on who will become GW’s next president.
Chernak said, “I remain confident that GW will land itself an absolutely first rate, competent, energetic and capable president to succeed President Trachtenberg.”