Winthrop board asks foundation to pay for next presidential search

08/25/2014 7:41 PM

08/26/2014 7:07 AM

Winthrop University trustees want the school’s fundraising arm to foot the bill for its next presidential search to replace fired President Jamie Comstock Williamson.

Trustees voted unanimously Monday to begin talks with the Winthrop University Foundation about paying for the search. A decision from the foundation’s Board of Directors could come next month.

Winthrop plans to hire a consultant to help conduct the search, but it most likely won’t be the company the school used last time, trustees said.

“We want to take a fresh look at the presidential search firms that are out there,” said Vice Chairman Karl Folkens.

In 2012, trustees hired Greenwood/Asher & Associates of Florida to find retired President Anthony DiGiorgio’s successor. Winthrop spent $127,800 on the search, including travel expenses for some candidates and consultant’s fees.

After a nearly year-long search, Winthrop named four finalists and chose Williamson in February 2013. She was fired less than a year after taking office.

Finding and vetting candidates for Williamson’s replacement, Folkens said, could cost up to $150,000. Winthrop has not yet interviewed prospective firms for the search. Chairwoman Kathy Bigham has said trustees hope to choose the next president early next year.

To find the right person, the search needs to be “tailor-made to the current situation at Winthrop,” Folkens said. The foundation is an appropriate place to find money for the search, he said, adding that it traditionally provides a salary supplement to Winthrop’s president, similar to other public schools in the state.

Williamson received nearly $11,000 every month from Winthrop’s foundation, in addition to her $170,000 university salary.

All compensation ceased when trustees fired Williamson. The foundation is not currently paying a presidential salary supplement as Debra Boyd, the university’s acting president, has retained her pay as provost and vice president.

The foundation, created in 1973 as a nonprofit organization, acts as a fundraising arm and donation money manager for Winthrop. It accepts money from donors to pay for scholarships and other needs. In the past, the foundation has paid the cost of fundraising events for donors, and it helped pay for Williamson’s inauguration celebration in March.

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