HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The University of Hawaii Board of Regents spent at least an hour and a half meeting behind closed doors in executive session Thursday afternoon to discuss the departure of UH President MRC Greenwood and efforts to find her successor. And the only thing the Regents' leader could say for sure afterwards was that none of the regents wanted her job.
Greenwood announced earlier this month she will retire from the UH president's job on August 31, nearly two years before her $475,000-a-year contract expires. She plans to take a one-year unpaid leave and then said she will return to a tenured faculty position at UH's John A. Burns School of Medicine.
UH Regents Chair Eric Martinson said the regents discussed the names of potential presidential candidates during their closed-door meeting Thursday. He could not offer a timetable of how long the search for Greenwood's successor will take or say whether the regents will hire a search firm to help in their process. When Greenwood was hired in 2009, the search took seven months and UH spent $109,000 on a search firm.
"I think the responsibility of the board is to find the best candidate to serve the needs of the organization and lead the organization going forward. Certainly, we need someone who's sensitive to Hawaii's business style and Hawaii's culture. We're going to find the best candidate who fits that need as well as the overall need of the presidency," Martinson said.
Earlier Thursday, Greenwood gave one of her final public reports to the regents' monthly meeting at the Campus Center ballroom on the UH Manoa campus.
Maui Regent Artemio Baxa, a retired state judge, suggested that Greenwood's replacement could come from among the 15-member all-volunteer Board of Regents. Baxa said regents Chuck Y. Gee or John C. Holzman would make good presidents for the UH's 10-campus system.
Holzman is a retired diplomat who served as U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh and charge d'affaires in Pakistan.
Holzman said he's not interested in the UH's top job.
"I'm just an old retired guy," he joked Thursday.
"Ditto," said Gee, who also said "I'm not interested."
Gee was dean of the UH School of Travel Industry Management from 1976 until 1999, when he retired. He previously was interim dean of the UH Manoa College of Business Administration.
Martinson said none of the regents is interested in applying for the president's position.
UH's chief academic officer Linda Johnsrud is considered by many people to be the leading contender to become interim president of UH during a search for a permanent president. Johnsrud, who is second in line to the UH president, became the school's vice president for academic affairs and provost in 2005. She has worked in the UH system for nearly 25 years.
During the 2013 legislative session, Johnsrud often represented UH before State House and Senate committees, because Greenwood did not appear before lawmakers as often as she had in years past. Greenwood had come under criticism from some legislators and members of the public for her handling of the UH's failed Stevie Wonder concert and its aftermath.
In the session that just concluded earlier this month, lawmakers refused to fund $23 million in UH faculty raises and also chopped $7 million in general fund money from the budget of its flagship Manoa campus, saying the school could use its increasing tuition funds to make up the difference. Legislators this year also removed the UH president's power to serve as chief procurement officer in charge of university construction projects and passed a law to assure its president could no longer serve as the head of the board that oversees the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii.
If UH launches a national search for Greenwood's successor, experts familiar with university president searches said it's unlikely UH would be able to select a permanent president by Sept. 1, when Greenwood leaves. That's because when she was hired in May 2009, a UH presidential selection committee took seven months to solicit input from the community and then identify and review a wide range of candidates.
The committee began its search in October 2008, conducting in-person interviews with three search firms. UH received 90 nominations and 78 applications for the president's job, eventually inviting 14 candidates for in-person interviews, according to a UH Regents report on the search process.
Three of the 14 candidates were Hawaii residents, while the others were from California, Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, Tennessee and New York.
The committee narrowed the list down to three finalists. Two of the finalists withdrew from consideration, leaving only Greenwood in the running. Sources said a slim majority vote of the Regents, 8 to 7, voted not to re-open the search to bring in more candidates for the job. The regents then unanimously selected Greenwood and she took office as UH's 14th president and its first woman at the helm.