Leadership profile describes qualities of next UD president

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Members of the Board of Trustees pose for a picture. Photo courtesy of UD administration.

The University of Dallas Presidential Search Committee recently published a leadership profile that describes the desired qualities of the next president and key issues for the president to address.

Citing former president Thomas Keefe’s proposal to create a new adult learning college in March 2017, critics often claimed Keefe lacked appreciation for UD’s traditions, especially the Core. Based on the profile’s wording, the new description focuses on finding a president with this appreciation who also has the necessary fundraising skills.

The current profile was a collective effort by members of the search committee who took into consideration input from town halls and online comments, according to search committee chair Richard Husseini.

The committee posted the profile Sept. 28 on the presidential search website.

The profile describes the future president as “a devout, practicing Roman Catholic with impeccable personal qualities including moral, intellectual, and theological virtues,” as well as with “a track record for building and maintaining trusting relationships.”

Besides personal faith and virtues, the profile requires the president to uphold “the Catholic intellectual tradition.” The president must not only possess an earned terminal degree, but must have “considerable experience in higher education,” preferably in an institution similar to UD.

The top objectives for the next president are to “galvanize the community behind a broadly embraced vision for the University’s future,” “raise the profile of the institution nationally and internationally,” and to “secure the financial future of UD.”

The profile describes the president’s role as “the institution’s foremost public representative and principle fundraiser.”

Thus, the president must possess relational skills both to represent UD to the outside world and to collaborate with members within the UD community.

Husseini did not emphasize any one quality in the leadership profile as more essential than another. Instead, he wrote:

“The search committee tried very hard to reduce to writing what the committee determined to be the essential qualifications in our next President.”

Husseini wrote that the current presidential search has similar priorities to the 2009 search.

“Fundraising remains critically important to UD,” he wrote. “While the two presidential profiles may have been written differently, I assure you that the ability of UD’s new President to fundraise successfully is at least as important now as it was in 2009.”

But the order of the 2009 profile, used in the search that selected Keefe, seems to give greater weight to fundraising than does the current profile.

In the 2009 description, second after the requirement that the president be a practicing Catholic who embraces UD’s mission is the qualification:

“A person… who has demonstrated repeated accomplishments in the development and execution of successful fund-raising (sic).”

By contrast, the current profile does not mention fundraising until the third paragraph of the qualifications section.

Dr. Charles Sullivan of the History Department confirmed that fundraising skills were a top priority in 2009.

Based on his memory of the search and related discussions, he wrote that UD had been looking for a Catholic president who shared the goals of Catholic higher education and could communicate them to the public, had experience in academic institutions, and was faithful to UD’s mission.

“But above all else, the previous presidential search committee was focused on finding a candidate with a proven track record in raising money,” Sullivan wrote. “To say it was ‘our primary concern’ probably doesn’t fully capture how central a concern it was. It was the overriding concern.”

This analysis is supported by minutes from a Dec. 17, 2009 meeting of representatives from the Board of Trustees and the Senate Subcommittee on Faculty Compensation. The minutes state:

“The Board had now made a proven track record of fundraising [as] the first priority in its recent selection of a new university president, and it was committing itself to working closely with him in improving the university’s capitalization.”

Sullivan explained that the focus on fundraising in 2009 was largely because UD’s endowment had taken a hit with the economic recession from 2007-2008, which also affected recruitment. Recovery was slow. Faculty compensation, which had been reduced in the early 2000s, was also a concern.

Nine years later, UD is now in a more stable financial situation, with an endowment of about $82 million, compared to about $36 million in March 2009, and undergraduate enrollment at an all-time high of 1,471.

“Income-wise we are much better off,” Sullivan wrote.

But Sullivan also highlighted UD’s current financial challenges, which include the need for new facilities, higher faculty and staff salaries, a larger endowment and seed money for new programs.

Senior Jacquelynn Lee was impressed by the current leadership profile.

“I was excited to see that they really did take the student input into account,” she said.

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