Delivered October 15, 2010, by Frances Degen Horowitz, Chair, 2010 Antioch College Presidential Search Committee
Members of the Presidential Search Committee were invited to serve on the Committee following the Board Pro Tem meeting in January 2010 and after the Board chose the firm of Isaacson-Miller to assist in the search process. The members of the Committee were selected from among members of the Board Pro Tem, non-Board alumni, and current Antioch College staff with the goal of forming a diverse committee and one that included different generations of graduates of the College.
The resulting fifteen member committee included: Frances Degen Horowitz ’54 (Chair), Jay Lorsch ’55, Joyce Idema ‘57, Ed Richard ’59, Steve Schwerner ‘60 (former Dean of Students and faculty member), Judy Voet ’63, Joe Foley ‘64 (Vice President of the Alumni Association), Barbara Winslow ‘68, David Goodman ‘69 , Tendaji Ganges ’71, Lisa Delpit ‘74 ,Shadia Alvarez ‘96, Shelby Chestnut ’05, College Director of Work Susan Eklund-Leen and Glen Helen Executive Director Nick Boutis.
To familiarize themselves with the campus and to better understand the challenges and opportunities that would face a new President, John Isaacson and Jamie Sands, from Isaacson-Miller, visited the campus in early March. They toured the campus and the village of Yellow Springs, and spoke with campus personnel, retired faculty, Board Pro Tem Chair Lee Morgan, and members of the Yellow Springs community.
The Committee began its work toward the end of February. The first task was to agree on the position description – referred to as the “scoping document” – to be used in advertising the position and with potential prospects and candidates. At the first in-person meeting of the Committee, in March, the Committee gave final approval to the scoping document. The remainder of the meeting was devoted to discussing our understandings and expectations as we embarked upon the search.
Among the matters addressed were the Committee’s desire to have the opportunity to consider a diverse pool of candidates; the importance of securing candidates who shared the Board Pro Tem’s determination that the revived Antioch College recruit a diverse student body, a diverse faculty, and a diverse staff; an interest in seeking candidates with a proven track record of effective fund-raising. The Committee focused on wanting candidates who would be able to understand the core values of Antioch College with its interlocking emphasis on the three hallmark features of an Antioch education – classroom, co-op, and community (as in community governance). We agreed that citing these as important for our future was not an expression of nostalgia for the past but a recognition that they have long constituted the basic reasons why Antioch College has had such a profound impact upon its students, why so many alumni, in how they have lived and are living their lives, have continued to win victories for humanity.
Over the course of the next six and a half months the Committee met thirteen times in person and via phone conference calls as a whole group and in sub-sets of Committee members. The Committee reviewed the resumes of a large number of interesting prospects and potential candidates. Isaacson-Miller provided background information and initial reference checks for all candidates of interest to the Committee. Ultimately ten individuals were invited to be interviewed by the Committee – to be semi-finalists. Two among the semi-finalists were women; two were members of minority groups. Two of the ten semi-finalists, for personal reasons, elected not to proceed with the interview. With each candidate, we asked questions that explored how they’d build a team; their management style; their views on liberal arts education, co-op, shared governance and their commitment to diversity; how they would go about recruiting students; and living in Yellow Springs. We researched each extensively to get a sense of each individual, and we discussed fund-raising, fund-raising, fund-raising.
Of the eight semi-finalists, four who were not familiar with Yellow Springs and the Antioch campus were asked to go to Yellow Springs to see the campus to learn more about the current stage and state of the College; some of the semi-finalists were interviewed more than once. In the end, the Committee chose two individuals as finalists – each to be recommended as suitable contenders for being appointed President of Antioch College.
The original plan was to invite the finalists to campus for meetings with campus personnel and to participate in an open forum prior to their meeting with the Board Pro Tem. In the course of the search process it became clear that the candidates in whom the Committee was most interested were reluctant to participate in the public forum without having first met with the Board Pro Tem. Accordingly, the Committee decided, and the Board agreed, that all finalists would be asked to meet with the Board prior to the public phase of the search.
The members of the Board Pro Tem interviewed the two finalists and determined that each should be sent to the campus as a finalist for the Presidency of Antioch College. One of the finalists subsequently elected to withdraw as a candidate. The remaining finalist, Mr. Mark Roosevelt, proceeded.
By the time this report is made, Mark Roosevelt will have visited the campus, spoken with a wide range of campus personnel, participated in a public forum streamed to interested alumni, and met with the Alumni Board. The Board Pro Tem will be receiving feedback from campus personnel, attendees at the public forum, members of the Alumni Board, interested alumni, and others. The Board will then decide whether or not to offer the position of President of Antioch College to Mark Roosevelt. In the event of an affirmative decision by the Board Pro Tem and Mr. Roosevelt’s acceptance of the offer, the Search Committee will have completed its work.
In concluding this report, it is important to observe that, at the outset, both the Board Pro Tem and the Search Committee understood that this would be a challenging search: the College was closed; its financial future was a work in progress. During the course of the search, the reality of our understanding was made clear. Isaacson-Miller reported, with some frequency, that those contacted for names of possible candidates, as well as potential candidates themselves, mentioned Antioch College’s recent difficulties, its reputation for tangled politics, and the challenging nature of any re-start-up effort. Nevertheless, the Search Committee had the opportunity to consider a strong candidate pool. It made its recommendations to the Board with confidence that each of the finalists believed deeply in our mission, was optimistic about our potential, and had the requisite skills and background to lead a successful revival of this quite exceptional institution that has been and will be Antioch College.
I wish, as chair, to express, on behalf of the Search Committee, to John Isaacson and Jamie Sands, and to their colleagues at Isaacson Miller, appreciation for their services to the Committee and to Antioch College. Their professionalism and experience, their commitment to identifying and encouraging viable candidates, and their skillful shepherding of the search process were of inestimable value to the work of the Committee. A hearty “thank you” also goes to Joyce Morrissey. Her quiet, thoughtful, and capable presence as staff to the Search Committee facilitated our efforts at every turn as we went about our task.
And, finally, I wish to express my personal appreciation to and admiration of each and every one of the members of the Search Committee. They gave of their time, they attended meetings in person and on the phone, they read supporting materials and documents, they travelled, they re-scheduled commitments and re-arranged plans in order to participate in the meetings and interviews. Each brought a sensibility to our deliberations that enriched the process. And each also maintained an unshakeable commitment to the candor and confidentiality that are so essential for the integrity of a search process. All of us owe a sincere debt of gratitude to this group of individuals for their selfless service to our purposes.