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Faculty members react to potential president recommendation

By , Reporter  |  Wednesday, February 13, 2013 11:44 PM

With Thursday’s decision on St. Thomas’ new president looming, the university’s faculty and staff gave their opinions on who will lead the institution.

Reports emerged Monday that said Julie Sullivan is the presidential search committee’s recommendation to the Board of Trustees.

Because the university has kept all candidates and finalists secret, the faculty and staff have not been able to evaluate any applicants. However, now, with a potential successor’s name circulating, the St. Thomas community is able to speculate about what the future may hold.  Presidential_Search_SIG_thumb

If Sullivan is named, this will be the university’s first female and first lay president.

Terry Langan, College of Arts and Sciences dean, said in an email that any candidate will be a change from St. Thomas’ recent history.

“After having had only two presidents in the last 47 years, the naming of a new president for the University of St. Thomas will be a historic occasion regardless of who is named,” Langan’s email said.

Robert Kennedy, Catholic studies department chair, said finding a priest to replace the Rev. Dennis Dease would not be a crucial aspect in the search for a new president.

“What’s important is our Catholic identity,” Kennedy said. “We are a Catholic university, and as long as the selection reflects that, whether the person is ordained or not, is what will be important going forward.”

Michael Garrison, associate dean of the Opus College of Business, said he is excited about the prospective pick, no matter what background he or she might have.

“Father Dease is one of the best leaders and administrators that I’ve ever seen in a university,” Garrison said. “Although the university will maintain a Catholic image, I don’t think that religion is a major drive in the management skills.”

Garrison also said all departments are looking for a leader to be prepared for a university’s changing environment.

“There will be enrollment pressures, financial pressures and increasing competitive pressures,” Garrison said. “The landscape of higher (education) is changing, and we’re going to need a leader.”

Anastasia Straley can be reached at stra0669@stthomas.edu.

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