Dunn opens up about confidential search

By DE Staff

Incoming SIU president Randy Dunn may have been a late arrival to the presidential search, but was a nominee all along.

The Presidential Search Advisory Committee was formed in late September, with William R Funk and Associates chosen as the consulting firm. Dunn said he was seen as a potential candidate months before he agreed to apply. President Glenn Poshard announced his retirement July 25, and it wasn’t long before Dunn was notified of the open position.

“Different friends and colleagues from southern Illinois had been texting and emailing that information,” Dunn said.


He said William Funk & Associates approached him to be a nominee in mid-October.

“While the position really was a dream job for me and certainly very attractive, having just started out (in Youngstown) it was going to be really impractical if not impossible to become a candidate,” Dunn said.

Despite declining the nomination, Dunn told the search firm to keep him in mind.

“I certainly said given my ongoing interest, in fact that would be my job of all jobs to end my career with, I said certainly keep me in prized with developments but at that point I indicated you know, I didn’t feel like I could apply.”

Dec. 15 was the preferred deadline for applications. But Dunn received another call from the search firm just days before Christmas inquiring about the candidacy. Dunn said he told Funk he was content at Youngstown and would keep in touch.

Dunn said Funk contacted him again in early January.

“The contact there was really more along the lines – the consultant had been asked to specifically see at that point if I would be willing to send in my [curriculum] vita and meet with the board,” Dunn said. “I certainly didn’t say, ‘wow if you have me up to talk with you I’m just automatically going to drop everything,’ but I think given [Funk’s] charge from SIU was to at least try to have me come and have a conversation with the board.”

Dunn said he does not know who contacted the consulting firm, but the board showed a serious interest in him.

Dunn submitted his application Jan. 10, and interviewed with the SIU board Feb. 12 in St. Louis.  Dunn said everyone on the board was physically present except Donna Manering, chairwoman of the presidential search committee, who was available to vote via conference call.

The next day, during the SIU Board of Trustees Feb. 13 press conference, chairman Randal Thomas said the board was ahead of schedule in finding a new president but would not comment on when an announcement would be made — the original search timeline called for a new president to be named in April.

The following day the trustees announced they would meet to name a new president Feb. 17.

Dunn’s contract with SIU, effective Feb. 17, states he must begin work before Aug. 17. Just hours after Thomas announced Dunn’s hiring, Dunn met with the YSU Board of Trustees in a special meeting. Dunn then submitted his 180-day notice to leave YSU, making his earliest possible leave date, Aug. 17, exactly one day before SIU’s 2014-2015 school year begins.

However, it was announced Wednesday Dunn will leave Youngstown Mar. 21.

Dunn said he agreed with partaking in a confidential search, and would have been more hesitant to apply had the search been public.

“I’d have to think about it very carefully,” he said. “I’m not saying I wouldn’t, but it would clearly have been something Ronda and I would’ve had to think through very carefully because in so doing there’s an impact on the campus that’s employing you.”

In May 2013, Dunn was a finalist in the presidential search at Illinois State University, which uses an entirely transparent search method. Dunn was one of the final four candidates who held an open forum with the student body to address what they felt was required of a president. However SIU’s search was done with the promise of confidentially.

“It’s not a question of saying ones better than the other or you prefer one or the other,” Dunn said. “It kind of depends on the nature of the position and the nature of the institution, what the history is and how previous searches have been done. I don’t believe one [form] is better than the other.”

Dunn said had the search been public he would have informed the Youngstown Board of Trustees of his candidacy, but was able to continue his relationship with the YSU board because SIU’s search was confidential.

Dunn said he plans to be settled in southern Illinois by May 1. With Poshard’s contract ending June 30, Dunn expects to take over the presidency July 1.

“This will be the last job for me. I do not plan to leave this position until retirement,” he said.

Luke Nozicka, Kayli Plotner and Karsten Burgstahler contributed to this story.