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Wharton Dean Patrick Harker

The University of Delaware is courting Wharton Dean Patrick Harker to be its next president, current Delaware President David Roselle has confirmed.

Harker, who has been on the Wharton faculty for over 20 years, visited the Delaware campus yesterday and met with administrators, Roselle said.

Delaware is still in the midst of its search, however, meaning that Harker has not been officially offered the position.

But Roselle said his university would "like to be able to interest him in" taking on the presidency.

Several Wharton spokesmen declined to comment on whether or not Harker is considering leaving.

Harker joined the Wharton faculty in 1984 and has been dean since 2000.

A Penn alumnus who made headlines when he was chosen as the youngest dean in Wharton history, Harker has kept the school at the top of national business school rankings despite a 2004 decision to no longer provide student contact information to publications that rank.

If Harker decides to make the move south to Delaware, many Wharton faculty will consider it a "loss," said Legal Studies professor Kevin Werbach.

"The faculty generally feel that he's done an excellent job," Werbach said. "From what I've seen and from the perspective I get from my colleagues, people think very highly of his deanship."

Roselle said his meetings with Harker have been a "big success."

"He's a nice fellow and bright and very accomplished," Roselle said. The university's search committee "was right" to try to interest Harker, he added.

While Wharton is one of the nation's leading business schools, experts say that taking on the presidency at another institution is a natural career move.

It would be "very logical" for Harker to go from Wharton to Delaware, said Norton Grubb, a professor of higher education at the University of California, Berkeley.

It's all about "moving up the academic-administration ladder," Grubb said.

"You become a president, and you run an institution; and, if you're good, in five to 10 years, you move to another institution; and, if you're really good, you get to Harvard," he said.

Grubb added that Harker's experience as the dean of Wharton means that he has already "been encased in all the activities you need to be a president."

Moving up the ladder could also potentially mean more pay. Roselle is the fourth-highest-paid public-university president, receiving a salary of $673,770 in the 2005 fiscal year, according to tax reports. Harker's current salary is unknown.

Roselle said he did not know when the university will make a final decision.

- Jared Miller contributed reporting for this story.

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