The search for the next president

The search for the next university president is on after the resignation of former President Paul W. Ferguson with no public explanation on Jan. 25, just under 18 months into his presidency.

Ferguson's term as president officially ended on March 25, after a two-month sabbatical. During this time he was paid two months of his $450,000 yearly salary — about $75,000, paid out on normally scheduled paydays, according to his severance contract. The university will also pay Ferguson for his unused vacation days — $21,635 — and any other wages earned through March 25.

Ferguson will also receive a $450,000 severance payment, as well as around $15,000 worth of premiums for a year of health insurance to be paid out over the course of 12 months, as long as he doesn't break his severance agreement with the Board.

Both parties have signed on to remain confidential. They can’t reveal the conditions or discussions that led up to the severance agreement. Ferguson also can’t make a statement regarding the reason for his resignation that is inconsistent with the university’s public statement.

The announcement that Ferguson would resign three and a half years before his contract was up came as a surprise and prompted calls for the university to explain what happened and be more open about the departure.

Calls for transparency from students, faculty and staff carried over into requests for an open presidential search, rather that a closed search – how Ferguson was chosen as president.

Rick Hall, president of the Board, said that this will not be the case.

“The search will be confidential, but the committee is to report from time to time to the rest of the campus of the progress that we're making,” Hall said. 

The committee’s chair, Matt Momper, also echoed the need for privacy throughout the search.

“We’re going to get the cream of the crop – as long as we’re a closed search,” Momper said said.

The presidential search committee, made up of 16 faculty members and trustees, will work with Witt/Kieffer of Oak Brook, Ill., a search firm, to find possible presidential candidates.

Terry King, the interim president, will serve until the next president is chosen by the Board of Trustees. John Thornburgh, a senior partner of the firm, said that could be as soon as October 2016, but also that "timelines and deadlines shouldn't stand in the way of exceptional results."


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