At last week’s press conference announcing Steven Knapp as GW’s next president, the chair of the search committee said it was a unanimous decision.
“It was absolutely unanimous that he was the top pick,” said law professor Arthur Wilmarth of Knapp.
Wilmarth was one of three faculty representatives on the search committee, which also included seven Board of Trustees members, the president of the GW Alumni Association Christopher Young and GW Student Association President Lamar Thorpe.
When the committee began the process last April, they first worked to get a sense of what the GW community wanted to see in the next president. Several open forums took place, students filled out surveys, and faculty members were interviewed by the committee. Committee members said that Knapp fit the requirements for the presidency based on input from members of the community.
“We got input from students, from alumni, from faculty, from the community,” said Alumni Association President Christopher Young. “When we sat down we realized that he met just about every important characteristic.”
The committee also used a higher education search firm to help conduct the process, Academic Search Consultation Services. James Ferrare is president of the consulting service and said GW’s committee was impressed with Knapp’s experience at Johns Hopkins University.
“His vision, his excitement, his knowledge … moved (us) rather quickly,” Ferrare said.
He said about 150 people were in the search, but about 100 filled out all the paperwork. There were three ways to become a nominee, including: having the applicant apply themselves, being nominated by another person or by having Academic Search, Inc. ask them.
Knapp said last week that he was nominated by someone, but does not know who.
Last week The Boston Globe reported that Knapp was a candidate for the president’s position at Harvard University. Ferrare would not say if Knapp was involved in other searches and Young said Knapp’s involvement with other searches had little effect on GW’s search.
“All of the candidates who were on our final list were on some kind of short list at other universities,” he said. “But when we found someone who met all of our requirements, we just proceeded as quickly as we could. There was no sense that we had to close the deal before a certain date.”
Members of the committee declined to discuss the specifics of the search process.
“It was a confidential process to protect the integrity of the candidates being considered,” said former Trustee Cynthia Baker.
While Knapp’s presence will not be felt at GW for several months, the reaction among students and faculty has been almost uniformly positive. Search members say they are unsurprised by the positive reaction seen so far.
Baker said, “He was the best choice, and I’ve heard nothing but positive words so far.”
-David Ceasar contributed to this report.