SIU’s Board of Trustees decided who will be the university’s eighth president in a special session Thursday, and will announce its choice Monday at 2 p.m. in Edwardsville. Trustees Roger Herrin and Donna Manering were absent for the vote. Board Chairman Randal Thomas said Thursday, Manering: chair of the presidential search advisory committee, was out of the country.
While sources have told the Daily Egyptian Youngstown State University President Randy Dunn is the leading candidate for the position, YSU officials said they had not been notified of Dunn’s application. Dunn has served as Youngstown’s president for seven months, taking office July 13, 2013.
“If this is true, it’s a surprise to me,” YSU Board Chairman Sudershan Garg said. “We had an executive meeting six days ago and the subject never came up.”
YSU board member James Greene said he hadn’t heard anything official yet, but the board has meetings later this week.
“I just had a call from another person that indicated that, and it’s news to me,” he said.
Dunn received a bachelor’s degree in teacher education and a master’s degree in educational administration and foundations from Illinois State University, as well as a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He spent nine years at SIU— he became an associate professor of education in 1995 and became chair of the education department in 2000. His wife Ronda, of Benton, also attended SIU.
Dunn is best known for his time at Murray State University, where he served as president from May 2006 to July 2013. Dunn left Murray State after the MSU Board of Regents voted not to renew his contract. The vote took place March 15, 2013, the same day Dunn accepted his position at Youngstown. However, it was suggested the regents met the night before and colluded their vote, a possible violation of the Open Meetings Act. Dunn cited differences in philosophy between himself and board chairman Constantine Curris as the reason for the vote, according to WKMS, Murray State’s NPR station. A report released by a contract committee several days before the vote stated relations between Dunn and the board had moved from insensitivity to disrespect during his final year.
Board members cited a lack of allegiance to the university based on other positions Dunn had recently applied for. He applied for president of the University of Tennessee in October 2010, the Florida Commissioner of Education in December 2012, and was one of the finalists in the presidential search at his alma mater, ISU in 2013.
The report also noted the committee received 18 letters concerning Dunn’s reappointment — 14 positive and four negative. Dunn received the support of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Alliance as well as the Murray State Regional Outreach Board.
Dunn also completed the largest fundraiser in the school’s history, raising over $71 million in October of 2012 for the ‘Hold Thy Banner High’ campaign. While at Murray State in 2007, Dunn presided over a $600,000 donation from Chairman and CEO of Pepsi MidAmerica, Harry Lee Crisp II for a new soccer complex.
SIU entered into an estimated $5.5 million 10-year contract with Pepsi MidAmerica in 2012 making them the university’s distributor of ‘vending, beverage, and snack items’ until 2022.
Brad Cole, former Carbondale mayor, and Vice-President of Pepsi MidAmerica was a member of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee, and works with Crisp II and his son, Harry Lee Crisp III, the company’s chief operating officer. Cole could not be reached for comment.
In 2004, Dunn became superintendent of education for the Illinois State Board of Education, hand-picked by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. According to a Chicago Tribune article, controversy arose when Dunn appointed a new general counsel, and a new budget director that same day, both of whom had worked with the Blagojevich administration. Murray State Board of Regents minutes from May 11, 2006 state Dunn was approved as president in a 7-4 vote, but would not arrive on campus until Dec. 1, 2006 because of prior commitments with the Blagojevich campaign.
Other final candidates for the SIU presidency included presidents from the State University of New York-Courtland and Western Michigan University, former president of the University of Colorado, and one internal candidate from SIU Carbondale’s office of academic affairs.
According to board chairman Randal Thomas, as of Thursday the board had not interviewed all five candidates.
University President Glenn Poshard said he was not part of the selection process.
“The presidential role was established early on. That role was consultation and advisement only,” he said. “The search committee has done a thorough job and did not need any consultation from me in the process.”
Poshard’s contract is effective until June 30, 2014. The new president’s start date has yet to be determined.
Karsten Burgstahler and Sarah Gardner contributed to this story.
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