Howard U.: A look at two presidential searches

The last time Howard University was looking for a president, the board of trustees picked a pair of heavy hitters as co-chairmen of the search committee: business executive Richard D. Parsons and retired Gen. Colin L. Powell.

It’s hard for a committee to have more star power at the helm than the tandem of Parsons — who at that time, in 2007, was chairman and chief executive of Time Warner — and Powell, the former secretary of state.

This time, the board made a similar move. Noted Washington lawyer Vernon E. Jordan Jr. — who was a confidant of President Bill Clinton and has deep connections in the capital and the business world — was announced Monday as the chairman of a 19-member committee charged with seeking Howard’s 17th president.

A look at the previous search committee and the new one shows some overlap, some similarities and some interesting variations.

First the overlap. Jordan was on the 2007 committee, which recommended hiring Sidney A. Ribeau, the university president who retired abruptly last year. So was M. Kasim Reed, who is now the Democratic mayor of Atlanta.

Now the similarities. There were plenty of notables on the 2007 panel, including Jack F. Kemp, the former congressman and secretary of housing and urban development; Isiah Leggett, then a Montgomery County Council member and now the Democratic county executive; and LaSalle Leffall Jr., an esteemed professor of surgery at the university’s college of medicine.

Public figures on this committee include Kamala D. Harris, California’s attorney general, and Danette G. Howard, Maryland’s secretary of higher education.

An intriguing variation: Last time, board Chairman Addison Barry Rand was on the search committee. This time, he is not.

Jordan, a Howard trustee since 1993 who graduated in 1960 from the university’s law school, said in a telephone interview Monday that a vigorous search would be conducted with “deliberate speed.” He said the search would be aided by a professional firm and unconstrained by a timetable. “Of course, it’s going to be a national and international search,” Jordan said. “We’re going to look everywhere.”

The board will have the final say in hiring a president. And, of course, star power on a search committee is no guarantee of a successful outcome.

Here is the full roster of the search committee, drawn verbatim from the university’s news release:

Benaree P. Wiley, Alumna, Trustee, Principal of The Wiley Group, and Chair, Board 2014 Transition Committee

Kelechi C. Anyanwu, President of the Graduate Student Assembly and Third-Year Doctoral Student in the Counseling Psychology Program

Edward E. Cornwell III, M.D., F.A.C.S., F.C.C.M, Alumnus, Surgeon-in-Chief/Professor and Chairman of Surgery, Howard University Hospital

Lorraine N. Fleming, Ph.D., P.E., Alumna, Interim Dean, College of Engineering, Architecture and Computer Sciences, 2015 Middle States Accreditation Periodic Review, Chair, 1999 Middle States Accreditation Self-Study Taskforce

Leslie Hale, Alumna, Trustee, Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of RLJ Lodging Trust (RLJ)

The Honorable Kamala D. Harris, Alumna, Attorney General of the State of California

The Honorable Danette G. Howard, Alumna, Secretary of Higher Education, State of Maryland

Marian Johnson-Thompson, Ph.D., Alumna, Trustee, Professor Emerita of Biology, University of the District of Columbia (UDC)

Robert L. Lumpkins, Trustee, Chairman of the Board of The Mosaic Company, and retired Vice Chairman of Cargill Incorporated

Mark A. L. Mason, Alumnus, Trustee, Chief Executive Officer of Citi Private Bank

Stacey J. Mobley, Esq., Alumnus, Trustee, Senior Counsel, Dickstein Shapiro, LLP

Dominique C. Perkins, Vice President, Howard University Student Association

James K. Pleasant, Director, Mechanical, Engineering and Plumbing Services, Physical Facilities Management, Howard University

The Honorable M. Kasim Reed, Alumnus, Trustee, Mayor of the City of Atlanta

Frank Savage, Alumnus, Chief Executive Officer of Savage Holdings LLC and Chairman Emeritus, Howard University Board of Trustees

Dana A. Williams, Ph.D., Alumna, Chair of the English Department, Howard University

Undergraduate Faculty Senate Representative (Pending appointment by the Faculty Senate)

Graduate Faculty Senate Representative (Pending appointment by the Faculty Senate).

A former Post education editor, Nick writes about college from the perspective of a father of three who will soon be buried in tuition bills.
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