Search Process Update: Aug. 27

TO: Members of the University Community

FROM: Stephen R. Tritch, Chairperson of the University of Pittsburgh Board of Trustees

DATE: August 27, 2013

SUBJECT: The Chancellor Search Process

Since Chancellor Nordenberg announced in June that he will be stepping down in August, 2014, the Board of Trustees has been devoting considerable time and energy to the selection of his successor. As I said at the June Board of Trustees meeting, the single most important task that the Board has undertaken since the election of Chancellor Nordenberg is the selection of his successor. I am writing to you directly because of how seriously the Board of Trustees takes this duty. While the ultimate responsibility lies with the Board of Trustees, I and my colleagues on the Board are pleased that we will have a broad-based search committee that can assist in this task by providing helpful insights from all sectors of the University community—faculty, staff, students, and alumni.

The primary challenge facing us lies in attracting and electing a successor who can maintain the University’s positive momentum and build upon the tremendous progress that the University has achieved under Chancellor Nordenberg’s leadership. There is a limited pool of individuals nationally and internationally who would be capable of that mission. Our search for such an individual is not made easier by the competitive environment in which we are conducting our search. Currently, there are 13 other major universities searching for new leaders, including AAU-member institutions such as the University of Michigan, Tulane, and Ohio State. Given that environment, the Board recognizes the need to move quickly in our search process, so that we are well-positioned to recruit the top-quality candidates that the University deserves.

As a result, the Board has been moving forward in several areas so that as soon as the election for the faculty representatives is completed, allowing the membership of the search committee to be finalized, the committee can get to work immediately.

One area of action has been the selection of the executive search firm of Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates to assist in the search.  Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates is a nationally recognized minority- and female-owned executive search firm specializing in senior-level searches for colleges and universities.

The principals of Storbeck/Pimentel have conducted more than 1,800 executive level searches for higher education clients over the last 20 years. The firm has worked with some of the country’s leading colleges and universities, including Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, the University of California, Pomona, Swarthmore, California State University, and others. Two of their recent successful presidential searches—Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Wisconsin—are evidence of their knowledge of the needs of a major research university along with their familiarity with Pittsburgh, both the city and the higher education community.

In addition, we have authorized the development of a chancellor search Web site that will provide information about the University and the position to prospective candidates, while at the same time showcasing the many outstanding elements of the University to both candidates and the wider public. The development of the Web site is underway and I will alert you when it is ready to go live.

Plans have also been developed to hold open forums in late September or early October here in Oakland and on our regional campuses to provide opportunities for all faculty, staff, and students to offer their input into the process. Similar forums are being scheduled for alumni in Pittsburgh and in other cities across the country so that their voices may be heard as well.

The Board has also learned, based on a review of recent presidential searches at other universities and the strong advice of Storbeck/Pimentel, that confidentiality of the process is absolutely essential if we are to attract the best-possible candidates. For that reason, while the initial stages of the search process, such as the open forums, will be highly visible, much of the ensuing search activity, especially as it relates to the confidentiality concerns of the candidates, will not be publicly available. Thus, there may be periods of seeming inactivity in the months ahead, but you have my assurance that bringing the search for a new chancellor to a deliberate, swift, and successful conclusion will be the number one priority of the Board of Trustees. I also assure you that I will keep you informed as circumstances allow.

I look forward to receiving the collective wisdom and insights from our University community, and I remain confident, as we move forward with the search, that the Board can continue to rely on the spirit of collegiality and cooperation that has been a hallmark of the University’s progress.