Winthrop University trustees are specifically looking for the school’s next president to be “trustworthy,” “polite,” and able to understand and appreciate “the South and its culture.”
The search for candidates interested in being Winthrop’s next president is underway with a private search firm helping recruit and narrow the pool of applicants. Detailed information about the job opportunity and the school’s desired traits for its next president is provided on Winthrop’s website for potential applicants.
On Friday, trustees said they expect search consultant Bill Funk, founder and president of R. William Funk and Associates, will return to Rock Hill in January with a list of interested and qualified candidates.
This year’s search for Winthrop’s 11th president is the second of its kind over the past two years.
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Winthrop’s Board of Trustees fired the school’s last leader – President Jamie Comstock Williamson on June 26 – just five days shy of her one-year anniversary in office.
Now, in looking for her replacement, the school has listed several “preferred characteristics” of a future president that appear to be a response to some of the complaints trustees listed when they fired Williamson.
Among the specifics listed in the online supplement to the job position description, Winthrop wants its next president to be a “good listener ... polite to other people ... (and) comfortable with a wide range of individuals and constituents.”
When trustees fired Williamson, they accused of her “explosive, berating, demeaning, hostile, condescending, rude and other unprofessional behavior.” In a June suspension and notice of termination letter to the former president, Winthrop board Chairwoman Kathy Bigham wrote that campus employees were “fearful of how you will respond to information they provide to you in the context of their jobs.”
Williamson has denied that allegation and every other claim that Winthrop officials have levied against her as reasons for her termination. She’s threatened to sue the university and individual trustees for breach of her employment contract, slander and defamation.
The Winthrop job ad for Williamson’s successor goes on to say that trustees are looking for a “visionary leader with strategic perspective ... exemplary communication and interpersonal skills, and a collegial and open leadership style.”
A key part of the next president’s job will be to “elevate morale” on campus, according to the Winthrop job ad. “There is a great deal of institutional pride that pervades the Winthrop campus, but events of the past year have taken their toll,” the ad states.
Other challenges for the new president listed in the ad include: increasing Winthrop’s student enrollment, boosting fundraising efforts, supporting a “college town” plan for Rock Hill, and enhancing on-campus activities to keep students from leaving on the weekends.
Some parts of this year’s job description are similar to what Winthrop officials included in the presidential search from two years ago. Both mention the importance of having the ability to fundraise to support the school’s financial needs for operating and providing student scholarships. And both note the importance of the Winthrop president acting effectively as representative for the university in various local, state and regional partnerships.
The previous job ad also detailed some preferred personal leadership traits. The description sent to interested candidates two years ago said the university was looking for a president with a “natural inclination toward thoughtful mentorship of talented team members.” That description – distributed by executive search firm Greenwood/Asher and Associates of Florida – also said Winthrop wanted a president who would have “sensitivity to the special relationship between a president and the Board of Trustees, especially the need for free-flowing information and consultation.”
The previous job ad described an ideal candidate as having “intellectual curiosity, personal warmth, exceptional energy – and the wisdom to apply each in appropriate measures across the myriad opportunities inherent in campus life.”
Winthrop officials have said they plan to interview presidential finalists during the spring semester and possibly make a decision in April 2015. The board is aiming to select a president to take office in the summer of 2015.
Winthrop’s acting president, Debra Boyd, is serving during the interim and has said she is not applying for the permanent job. Boyd has nearly 30 years of experience working at Winthrop and is serving as both the university’s provost and top academic officer.
The presidential search and eventual selection will move forward regardless of where the university is in its dispute resolution with the former president, Winthrop officials have said. On Nov. 11, trustees held a private, legal mediation session with Williamson for several hours but reached no resolution.
The Herald asked Winthrop spokesman Jeff Perez this week several questions about the mediation and next steps but he would not comment, saying, “I cannot comment on pending legal matters.” The unanswered questions from the newspaper to the university include whether Winthrop has offered a financial settlement to Williamson to avoid a lawsuit, and which law firm is representing the school.
Perez would also not say whether Winthrop plans to hold another mediation with Williamson. The former president’s contract calls for alternative dispute resolution to take place before any lawsuit can be filed.