Presidential Searches: Taking Risks and Reaping Rewards

By Matthews, Frank L. | Black Issues in Higher Education, October 21, 2004 | Go to article overview

Presidential Searches: Taking Risks and Reaping Rewards


Matthews, Frank L., Black Issues in Higher Education


Ask any executive search firm, chair of a presidential search committee or chair of a board of trustees to name the most important quality, attribute or skill needed for today's college president and if honestly given, the answer will be "the ability to raise money." They will give passing lip service to qualities such as leadership, communication and organizational skills, vision, effective managerial and administrative skills, and the ability to interact with diverse campus and community constituencies and to articulate the institution's mission will also be mentioned as highly desirable qualities.

Not to minimize any of these skills and traits, but in reality and given the dire financial straits that most colleges and universities find themselves in today, the general consensus is that the ability to raise lots of money is paramount. We would in fact be hard pressed to name a president who was a highly successful fund-raiser who didn't enjoy a long tenure at his or her respective institution.

This financial reality, in combination with the erroneous perception that African Americans and other minorities can't possibly be great fund-raisers, has led many a presidential search committee to make a costly blunder in their recruiting and hiring decisions. …

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