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As the date for Executive Vice President John Fry's official departure approaches, there's a good chance that his shoes will not be filled when he leaves Penn this summer.

Fry announced in February that he would resign from his current position July 1 to take on the presidency at Franklin and Marshall College, leaving University administrators just short of five months to find a replacement.

Yet with his official date of departure approaching rapidly, the search process for a new executive vice president is still in its initial stages.

Earlier this month, University President Judith Rodin announced that the University had hired Spencer Stuart, an executive search consulting firm, to look for external candidates to fill Fry's position.

"We announced about three weeks ago that Spencer Stuart would be conducting an external search for candidates," Rodin said in an interview last Thursday. "The ball is now in their court."

Spencer Stuart has worked with the University to fill various vacancies over the past few years. Stuart was the firm that helped select Rodin to succeed Sheldon Hackney as president in 1995.

In addition, the firm was involved in the selections of Patrick Harker as Wharton School dean in 2000 and Arthur Rubenstein as executive vice president of the Health System and Medical School dean in 2001.

Rodin said up to the time that Spencer Stuart had been rehired, she had been interviewing a number of other search firms.

According to Connie McCann, the managing director of Stuart's Philadelphia branch, the search process for narrowing down candidates entails multiple steps.

"Dr. Rodin has asked us to spend time with a wide range of constituents at the University, including trustees, faculty and administrators," McCann said. "From there, we will then do our research externally."

Spencer Stuart representatives will be meeting with Rodin periodically over the next few months as a list of potential prospects develops. Ultimately, the firm will present Rodin with a shorter list of final candidates who she will have the opportunity to interview.

Mann added that since the Fry vacancy will be opening very soon, Spencer Stuart will be working hard to narrow down choices.

"We know that we need to complete the process as quickly as possible," Mann said. "We will be working diligently to that end; whether we meet that deadline is a matter of a number of things, some which are out of our control."

Since his appointment as Penn's chief operating officer in 1995, Fry has been responsible for managing the University's finances and investments, improving facilities and overseeing community initiatives. Additionally, his other duties have included supervising the Division of Public Safety and expanding area retail and real estate initiatives.

Fry's successor, according to McCann, will have to exhibit a wide range of skills in order to take on these tasks.

"We're looking for a person with a high level of commitment to the academic mission of the University, a person who is highly intelligent and strategic and a person with a high level of stamina and energy," McCann said.

Yet in fulfilling his fundamental obligations as executive vice president, Fry's accomplishments stretched much further than the confines of his job. He assisted with the implementation of the University's Agenda for Excellence, helped to develop the University City District and brought establishments like the Freshgrocer and the shops at Sansom Common to campus.

In this way, the person who replaces Fry will have to live up to a lot more than the basic duties of the position.

"We want to find somebody who gets along with and can work with a wide range of constituents at the University and externally -- including the West Philadelphia community," McCann said. "Each candidate has to have very strong managerial skills because the person will be overseeing a large staff and a wide range of activities at the University."

Nevertheless, while the standards that Fry has set as executive vice president are high, McCann noted that many people were already looking into the position.

"We're still in the early stages, but it's going very well and there's a high level of interest in the position," McCann said.

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