Randy Dunn named SIU’s next president

Randy Dunn named SIU's next president

By DE Staff

Youngstown State’s Randy Dunn has officially been named the eighth president of Southern Illinois University.

The university’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously on Dunn’s appointment in open session Monday afternoon. Trustees Donna Manering, Jesse Cler, Shirley Portwood and Roger Herrin were present by phone.

“It was an intense process, not long,” Board of Trustees Chairman Randal Thomas said. “We very quickly got ahead of our time table and we realized that by being ahead, we had an opportunity, an obligation to maintain confidentiality.”


Thomas said the board was incredibly happy with Dunn’s answers in the interview process, but not all five finalists for the position were interviewed. Former SIU Vice Chancellor and Provost, John Dunn, was not a final candidate, he said.

“Once it was evident that we had the person that we wanted we moved very quickly to get to this point today,” he said. “We’re thrilled to have Dr. Dunn. He will be thrilled — he expressed his willingness and how thrilled he would be to be back in Illinois, to be back to Southern Illinois University.”

Dunn has served as Youngstown State University’s president for seven months, taking office July 13, 2013. The start date at SIU has yet to be officially determined, but Dunn’s salary will be $430,000. Present university President Glenn Poshard earns a $326,820 salary plus benefits.

“We have an effective date of the contract today and the salary, and we have President Poshard’s potential retirement date,” Thomas said.  “But Dr. Dunn will be working with his current employer to see how available he would be and (whether) could get him here early. We don’t anticipate having to do anything as an interim.”

Carole Weimer, of YSU’s Board of Trustees, said the board members were blindsided. YSU trustee Harry Meshel, said he was not happy with Dunn’s decision to accept the position.

“It’s a sudden surprise,” he said. “I’m quite unhappy about it, because I was very supportive and thought he was a great person. I looked forward to working with him for many years.”

Sudershan Garg, chair of the YSU board, said he was disappointed with how the matter unfolded.

“Of course campus will be affected temporarily, but it won’t stop,” Garg said. “He surprised us all by not telling anybody, and we were not happy about it. We wish he’d kept the board more involved.”

Youngstown’s Board of Trustees met with Dunn Monday night, in an executive session lasting more than two hours. Garg said the meeting went fairly well, and the members of the board accepted the facts at face value.

“The community thought he was here to stay, maybe for as long as 10 years,” Garg said. “He broke his commitment. The board is obviously unhappy losing a good president.”

Dunn’s contract with Youngstown says he may terminate his presidential employment at any time by providing the board with a written notice 180 days in advance, unless waived by the university . During Monday’s meeting Dunn submitted his official resignation to YSU, effective August 16.

Dunn’s SIU contract includes a car but does not give him university housing. Thomas said Dunn was a late addition to the candidate pool, but search firm R. William Funk and associates told the board that may be where the best candidates are found — the committee had at least three late arrivals.The search cost the university $90,000 plus $9,000 in indirect costs, he said.

“He entered the presidential search committee process late,” Thomas said. “We had been well advised by our consulting firm Funk and  Associates that the best candidates will arrive very late in the process because if you’re a sitting president at Purdue, you don’t want to apply to the SIU system until late in the game so that your board in Purdue doesn’t find out, or your contemporaries and your peers and your employees.”

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.

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. 

Seth Richardson contributed to this story.