In just over 368 days, University President Judith Rodin will step down from her post, leaving an extremely large vacancy for the University to fill.
An official presidential search committee, headed by Chairman of the University Board of Trustees James Riepe will commence in September. And while it is still early to predict who Rodin's successor will be, judging from the University's history, it is likely that Penn will find this person outside the borders of West Philadelphia.
Penn's past three presidents have been found externally. Most recently, Rodin served as Yale's provost before coming to Penn, and Sheldon Hackney took the reigns in College Hall following five years as president at Tulane University.
Martin Meyerson, who served as Penn's president from 1970 to 1981, previously served as president of the State University of New York-Buffalo.
And recently, the University looked externally to fill several high-ranking vacancies. The posts of executive vice president, Annenberg School for Communication dean and Dental School dean were all filled with imports from other institutions.
But whoever may eventually fill Rodin's shoes, the wheels are no-doubt already in motion.
"The politics of succession are fully underway," Political Science Professor Henry Teune said, adding that a current presidential search is looking for a different candidate than it once was.
The position of the university president has recently evolved to be a position more comparable to that of a corporate executive Teune explained.
But there is still a chance that Penn will buck its current external trend and decide to search internally for Rodin's successor. If the University decides to seriously consider an internal candidate, there are several qualified applicants.
While Teune, who has been a professor at Penn for over 20 years, noted that Provost Robert Barchi "should be in the pool somehow," he was quick to add, "I have not seen provosts promoted to president around here."
In fact, George William McClelland was the last Penn provost to become president back in 1944.
While Barchi himself declined to comment on the possibility of his promotion, he did note that Rodin had made the presidency at Penn "an extraordinarily attractive job."
Teune also noted that several of Penn's current deans could have a shot at Penn's most coveted post.
"Other universities would look at our deans, so why shouldn't we," he said.
Whoever is selected for the job, will go into the position with a plan of action already in place. The University's next strategic plan, Building on Excellence, is already well into the development process.
"I see [the plan] as both an opportunity and a challenge," Rodin said. "Because it was so broadly conceived, if a new president is wholly opposed to it, I actually think that would be difficult for someone and might indicate that that's not the right person for Penn," Rodin said.
For Cornell University President Hunter Rawlings, the search for a new university president will no doubt be intense. Rawlings, who will step down from his post at Cornell at the end of this week, has witnessed the search for an Ivy-League president firsthand.
"The process is often an arduous one and in a sense it needs to be because you want to look at every possible candidate," he said. "I think it's no secret what these universities need, they need the kind of leadership President Rodin has provided."Comments powered by Disqus
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