Penn State hires firm for president search

The executive search firm Isaacson, Miller will help Penn State leaders select the successor to President Rodney Erickson, the university announced Wednesday.

The firm, which has helped recruit presidents at Ivy League schools and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was told to make its search “as broad as possible” and to go after top-notch “traditional and nontraditional leaders,” said Penn State trustee Karen Peetz, who is chairing the internal group overseeing the process.

“We have engaged Isaacson Miller because the expertise and experience they possess reflects the type of search we wish to conduct,” Peetz said. “Their track record in finding exceptional candidates that truly fit an institution’s needs and future demands is outstanding.”

Then the provost, the university’s highest ranking academic position, Erickson was appointed president after the departure of Graham Spanier in November 2011 stemming from the Jerry Sandusky scandal fallout. Days later, Erickson’s appointment was made permanent.

Erickson, 66, has said he will retire by June 30, 2014, when is when he contract expires.

Peetz said the recruiting firm’s first work will be getting feedback from the university community to determine what qualities people want to see in the next president. The firm will reach out through public meetings, surveys and focus groups.

“The open dialogue also will help the firm identify Penn State's strengths, opportunities and challenges as it searches for a leadership match,” university officials said in the news release announcing the firm’s hiring.

Isaacson, Miller was chosen from a field of five executive search firms.

The search for Penn State’s next president will involve two separate, internal groups of people.

The Presidential Search and Screen Committee will review the job candidates and forward their recommendations to group chaired by Peetz, the Trustee Presidential Selection Council, which is overseeing the entire process.

The search-and-screen committee is chaired by Ann Crouter, the dean of the College of Health and Human Development, and among that committee are Lady Lions coach Coquese Washington and Larry Backer, the University Faculty Senate’s chairman.

The trustee council will narrow down the candidate pool even further, and the final step will be the appointment of the president, which is a decision typically made by the full trustee board.

Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said the university did not hire a search firm when it hired Spanier in 1995.