Whitman College Presidential Search
March 6, 2014
Dear Member of the Whitman Community:
As all of you probably know, Dr. George Bridges, having successfully completed many of the goals established at the outset of his 10 - year tenure, has announced that he will relinquish his role as Whitman's President on June 30, 2015. Thanks to his leadership and that of others before him, the College is thriving. Whitman's next President will inherit a vibrant institution with an outstanding and relatively young faculty notable both for its teaching and scholarship; a famously dedicated staff; the most talented and diverse group of students in its history; and, a healthy endowment of over $500 million.
The single most important role of the Board of Trustees is to identify a successor president who will help Whitman continue to thrive. Thanks to George's early indication of his intentions, we are optimistic that we will find such a leader on a timely basis and preliminary work on this process has already begun.
Trustees Nancy Serrurier and Janice Abraham have agreed to serve as co-chairs of the Search Committee. Based in California and Washington D.C., respectively, both have long experience as leaders in education. Nancy has been a Trustee at Colgate University, an elected school board president, a recent Whitman parent and has an extensive professional background. Janice is the CEO of United Educators Insurance, serving higher education nationally, and was the Treasurer of Whitman College from 1989-1997. Both are eminently qualified and well represent our national scope.
The remaining Trustee members of the Search Committee are Board Chair-elect Brad McMurchie ‘84, Bill Way ‘80, Sarah Wang '89, and David Nierenberg. I will be the sole member who was also a participant on the Search Committee that identified George Bridges some ten years ago. Background information on all Trustee members is available in existing publications and will shortly be available on the Whitman College Presidential Search website (www.whitman.edu/presidential-search).
The previous 2004 Search Committee included three faculty members, two Overseers, two students and one staff member in addition to the Trustee participants. Due to the confidentiality associated with George's decision as well as the desire to include faculty participation during preliminary planning, last December I asked Robert Allen Skotheim Chair of History and Chair of the Faculty David Schmitz to serve as one of the faculty representatives on the current Search Committee. After recent consultation with faculty Division Chairs, the Search Committee has been defined to include four faculty members with Overseer, student and staff representation unchanged from 2004.
Presidential searches are typically facilitated by a search consultant and ours will be no exception. There are a small number of highly qualified consultants who specialize in identifying and recruiting top university and college leadership, and, due to the potential for conflicts among competing searches involving other institutions, the Board began to consider identifying a consultant almost immediately after George notified us of his intention.
Trustee members of the Search Committee and Faculty Chair Schmitz conducted interviews with potential consultants. We are pleased to report that Shelly Weiss Storbeck of Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates has been hired. Further information on Ms. Storbeck is available at their website, www.storbeckpimentel.com, as well as a list of previous presidential search clients including Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, Colorado College, Dartmouth, Davidson, Haverford, Lewis & Clark, Middlebury, Occidental, Pomona and Swarthmore among others. Nancy, Brad and I will be on campus March 12 - 13 to meet with faculty, staff, and student leaders. Ms. Storbeck will be on campus April 3 - 4. Meeting schedules, updates and opportunities for comments will be available soon on the search website.
Based upon a review of virtually all recent, successful presidential searches at top liberal art colleges and on the unanimous recommendation of all search consultants interviewed, we do not expect final candidates to be identified publically prior to the Search Committee making a single recommendation to the Board of Trustees. This is a departure from the previous Whitman presidential search practice but this measure of confidentiality is unavoidable if we are to attract the best pool of candidates, many of whom will likely not allow themselves to be considered if their names are to be made public. Such a confidential process conflicts somewhat with our goal of inclusion and transparency but is almost a universal practice today among top liberal arts colleges and is imperative if our overriding goal is to identify and hire the best candidate. Additionally, all members of the Search Committee will be asked to commit to a Code of Ethics, pledging confidentiality throughout the process.
Thank you for your support and thoughtful input as we undertake this critical process together. All of us look forward to celebrating George's tenure in 2015 while knowing that the College remains in good hands.
Peter van Oppen ‘74
Chair, Board of Trustees