Cheng sole finalist for NAU presidency

Cheng sole finalist for NAU presidency

By Tyler Dixon

Chancellor Rita Cheng announced in an email Friday morning she is the lone finalist for the Northern Arizona University presidency.

After a six-month search, the Arizona Board of Regents chose Cheng, and her selection awaits a formal vote from the board.

“Dr. Cheng has a distinguished record of innovative and transformational leadership while consistently demonstrating a deep commitment to academic excellence,” Rick Myers, co-chairman of the Arizona Board of Regents, said.


Cheng said she was contacted by NAU in March about being its next president. She said even if the timing wasn’t right, these opportunities don’t come along very often.

“It’s a good fit, it would be a natural next step for me,” Cheng said.

LuAnn Leonard, co-chairman of the Arizona Board of Regents, said its extensive search started in February with more than 62 possible applicants.

Cheng said she is contacted weekly about potential jobs, but NAU was the only school she said she would have a conversation with. She said two reasons she considered NAU is because of its similarity to SIU and she has family in the west.

“They have had some really incredible success in many of their initiatives,” Cheng said. “I wanted to be connected to a campus like that.”

SIU President Randy Dunn said he was not aware of Cheng being in contact with NAU when he was hired. He said he will not get ahead of Chancellor Cheng and will not move forward until her hiring becomes official.

When the hiring is official, Dunn said he wants an interim chancellor in place before the academic year begins.


“I think there’s a good chance we can do that,” Dunn said.

Randal Thomas, chairman of the SIU Board of Trustees, declined to comment on the matter.

Outgoing NAU President John Haeger’s contract expires June 2015. He said in a NAU press release he would like to resume teaching before that date.

“I said from the beginning that NAU would best be served by a visionary and dynamic leader from a peer institution,” Haeger said in the release.

Cheng will address the NAU community Thursday, June 12.

“If all goes well, I will have a contract signed by the board at the end of next week or early the following,” she said.

Leonard said the board will have a vote the week after Cheng’s meeting on the NAU campus.

“We’re very excited and looking forward to a great new leader,” Leonard said. Northern Arizona University is located in Flagstaff and had a fall 2013 enrollment of more than 26,000 students.

Cheng said she will always appreciate her time at SIU and the university is currently on a course for future success.

“Although I won’t be here, I will always think fondly of SIU,” she said. “I’ll always be a Saluki.”

Tyler Dixon can be reached at t[email protected] or 536-3311 ext. 252.