You probably saw the email sent to our campuses earlier this week, describing the establishment of a Presidential Search Advisory Committee and outlining the work that group, and the presidential search committee it will appoint, plan to do over the next several months.
I had the opportunity to meet with the Advisory Committee at its initial meeting on April 16, and at its members’ request, offered my thoughts on the role of president of our University, what qualities might be sought in potential candidates, and how, philosophically, I hope WesternU will be led in the years to come.
The truth is that I don’t know how to pick a successor, and wouldn’t begin to try. The institution we all are part of today, and the worlds of higher education and health care in which it functions, are different in many ways than they were when this all started 38 years ago. Whomever becomes the next president of WesternU probably will have a background similar to my own in some ways, but also very different in key respects.
What I hope the new president will embrace, regardless of background or professional qualifications, is the spirit that has driven this place over the years — the willingness to take risks, to try new things we believe will work and will better the University and the people it educates and serves, and to invest in our people and, thus, our future.
Most of all, I believe our value system must not waver. WesternU will endure and thrive on the sustaining power of humanism. We can’t lose it. Indeed, I hope our values of caring and compassion will be strengthened even more as time rolls on.
The presidential search committee has a difficult task, as does any such group at any school or university. Its decision will be based on the successful candidate’s qualifications, of course, but also on a gut feeling. Is this the person best for our University? Will we be able to accomplish great things together? Does she/he understand what we mean when we say “I will be there for you, you can be sure”?
At the same time, our new president must be allowed to be his or her own person, with their own leadership style and investment in WesternU, such that when they speak, people will listen. I hope they will have WesternU’s philosophy, but they must use it in their own special way, lead as they think best, and forge their own path.
Our next president will have my full support in my role as president emeritus. My wish is to be a resource in helping make this transition as smooth as possible, and to proffer advice, when it is sought, as the University moves forward. Though my role will be different, my commitment and my passion for WesternU and its work will be unchanged and, I hope, of great service to the next president.
As always, I welcome your feedback on this topic and any others as we discuss WesternU’s Benchmarks of Value, and our plans. Please e-mail me with your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org, and feel free to share this message with your family and friends.
My best to you all,