Texas regents unanimously approve Yudof for post

Brad Unangst

The University of Texas System Board of Regents unanimously approved University President Mark Yudof as the UT’s new chancellor Friday, three weeks after naming him the sole finalist.

Under state law, the board had to wait 21 days before extending a final and legal offer to Yudof. As the board completed its approval, University regents began their search for Yudof’s replacement.

On Thursday, regents hired Korn/Ferry International to conduct the presidential search. Korn/Ferry’s national practice leader Bill Funk, who said he recruited nine of the last 11 Big Ten university leaders, will serve as the University’s consultant in the search.

“We just found him to be very experienced in presidential searches for public, as well as private, universities,” said Regents Chairwoman Maureen Reed.

The University hired Korn/Ferry for its 1996 presidential search.

Funk has experience in conducting searches for large institutions, a broad range of contacts and a “hands-on” reputation for working with universities, Reed said.

“It was those kind of things that tipped us in his direction,” Reed said.

The University will pay Korn/Ferry a $90,000 retainer fee plus expenses.

Funk could not be reached for comment but said in an earlier interview that the University’s prestige would contribute to drawing a large pool of strong individuals.

He said the University will draw candidates from three possible positions – a provost with experience from a large research university, a current president with an understanding of the rigors of running a university or a nontraditional candidate who has academic experience and currently works in business or other related fields.

Reed said the regents have been collecting potential candidates’ names from the public and people interested in the position. Those names will be passed on to Funk, she said.

Newspaper reports have identified former Gov. Arne Carlson and Kansas State University President Jon Wefald as possible candidates.

Some University officials said they would like to see another possible name enter the picture: interim President Robert Bruininks.

Joe Massey, Faculty Consultative Committee chairman, said his committee recommended to the board that Bruininks be considered as a potential candidate.

Massey said Bruininks could maintain the continuity Yudof started.

“I would think our committee would be very supportive of Bob Bruininks’ candidacy for the permanent presidency,” Massey said.

Bruininks could not be reached for comment. When named interim president June 7, Bruininks said he was “unequivocally” not a presidential candidate.

Others at the University said they think he could be persuaded to change his mind.

“He said right from the start he was not interested, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be made to be
interested,” said Hy Berman, University history professor.

Before Yudof’s decision to leave the University, Bruininks planned to take a yearlong sabbatical. The board convinced him to take the position, Berman said.

The board’s final list of presidential qualifications is unfinished but should be completed by the advisory committee’s first meeting August 1, Reed said.

The advisory committee will recommend finalist candidates to the board.

Terms of the presidential contract are still being determined, but the University will offer a $290,000
compensation package for the
position, Reed said.

The board said it would select the University’s next president by the end of the year.

“The search is well under way,” Reed said.

In the weeks before Yudof leaves the University, he will work with Bruininks to balance the responsibilities of the University.

“Formally, I will still make the decisions,” Yudof said.

Yudof will offer input on any
significant decisions made by retiring Texas Chancellor R. D. Burck, Yudof said.

During the past three weeks, Yudof said, he has faced many emotional challenges while waiting for the UT’s final offer.

“I really feel like I shouldn’t be making, by myself, a lot of decisions with which I have to live another six weeks and other people may have to live with for months and years,” Yudof said. “I have deferred to other people because I want to make sure they’re comfortable with people with whom they work.”

Yudof said he has talked with some of his University staff about their interest in going with him to Texas but declined to comment further.

University Chief of Staff Tonya Moten Brown followed Yudof from the UT system when she came to the University in 1997.

An official start date is still being determined, but Yudof will likely start as chancellor in early August, said Charles Miller, Texas board chairman.

Texas regents are finalizing Yudof’s contract and will present it at the Texas board meeting in August, Miller said.