Looking back, moving forward

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Photo by Anthony Garnier.

The search for President Thomas Keefe’s replacement may take up to a year if it resembles past presidential searches.

Associate Provost Dr. John Norris has experienced six different presidencies and served on the search committee that chose Keefe’s predecessor, Dr. Frank Lazarus.

The transition can take “anywhere from six months to a year,” Norris said.

“You have to put together a search,” Norris said. “They normally hire a search firm, and there’s a search committee.”

UD has had eight presidents and seven transitions between their terms. Interim presidents were appointed for five of these transitions.

Norris said that the search committee includes members of the board, faculty, and alumni and that a search firm is generally hired to help with this process.

The search firm’s “primary job is to seek out recommendations and … invite people to consider applying for the job,” said Norris.

Keefe’s abrupt departure is surprising compared to the last two presidents’ more traditional resignations.

Lazarus announced his retirement in April 2009 and took a pre-retirement sabbatical in September, but his retirement did not take effect until that December, according to an April 6, 2009 article by The Dallas Morning News.

The Board of Trustees gave Lazarus the title of President Emeritus when he left in honor of his “extraordinary impact on the University of Dallas,” according to the article.

It is unclear why Lazarus retired from UD since he later become provost and vice president for academic affairs at Assumption College in Worcester, Mass., according to another article in The Dallas News from May 2010.

Lazarus’ predecessor Monsignor Milam Joseph’s resignation was less smooth.

He had planned to stay until 2005 but announced his resignation in October 2003 after the economic downturn following the September 11 terror attacks sent UD into a financial crisis, according to a Nov. 16, 2003 article in the Morning News.

While Joseph’s presidency was controversial, he said that no one pressured him to leave, according to the Morning News.

Despite this, Joseph chose to resign and stayed until the end of the academic semester.

Keefe’s departure is unlike his last two predecessors’ resignations in that the decision to end his tenure was not his own. While Lazarus and Joseph had the opportunity to announce their own departures, the board issued a statement regarding Keefe’s departure prior to any statement from the president.

Norris was unsure whether any other UD presidents have left before the end of the semester.

“I can’t remember at what times the other presidents have left,” Norris said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if we had been in this situation [of a mid-semester decision] before, but honestly I just don’t remember.”

Multiple members of faculty, speaking on condition of anonymity out of concern for their positions, have stated that for at least the past three presidential transitions, “every president left under troubled circumstances.”

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