UH Board of Regents appoints presidential selection committee

Published: Jun. 6, 2013 at 4:46 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The University of Hawaii Board of Regents Thursday voted unanimously to appoint a presidential selection committee to begin looking for a replacement for UH President MRC Greenwood, who plans to step down on Aug. 31.

The committee will be chaired by Regent John Holzman, a retired diplomat.

A regents task group of three members, also chaired by Holzman, plans to put together a list of two or three people to chose from to appoint an interim president.

"The primary focus (for an interim UH president search) will be to look internally because that makes the most sense.  But I would hate to exclude the rest of the world," Holzman said.

Former Regents Vice Chair Dennis Hirota urged the board to appoint an outside leader to lead the university while a search is under way for a permanent president.

"I believe the Board of Regents should consider using this transition period to identify and engage a seasoned transitional executive who brings fresh and objective perspectives and is willing to implement needed organizational changes prior to the arrival of the new CEO," Hirota wrote in testimony submitted to the board.

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.

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 legislators and members of the public for her handling of the UH's failed Stevie Wonder concert and its aftermath.

In the session that concluded this spring, 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 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 other candidates were from California, Colorado., Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, Tennessee and New York.

The committee narrowed finalists down to three people.  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 unanimously selected Greenwood and she took office as UH's 14 president and its first woman at the helm.

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