Principal search narrows focus as deadline nears

Principal Williams open to extending term if necessary

University Secretary Georgina Moore says candidates from both Canada and abroad are being considered for the principal position.
University Secretary Georgina Moore says candidates from both Canada and abroad are being considered for the principal position.

The joint Board/Senate Advisory Committee is narrowing the pool of candidates to meet its spring 2009 deadline as it searches for the University’s next principal.

University Secretary Georgina Moore said she couldn’t name any of the candidates or say how many there are in order to protect their privacy, but said candidates from both Canada and abroad are being considered. Unlike some Canadian institutions, Queen’s isn’t required to have a Canadian principal.

“This is where we’re really in the quiet, confidential phase,” Moore said. “We’re looking at people who are prominent.”

Moore said former principal Karen Hitchcock’s sudden departure last year has had little effect on the search.

“The things that have happened in this year in the economic environment. … I think all of those things are probably very prominent in people’s minds, more than the past.”

Fear of further economic decline may work to the University’s advantage, Moore said, as Queen’s and Canada may seem more economically secure.

Moore said she thinks the University is in a better financial position than many other Canadian schools because of its strong balance sheet and high credit rating.

“Canada appears in the world to be in a slightly better position than other countries,” she said. “Among universities, Queen’s would be ranked as one of the more stable financially, except the challenges are going to be huge for everybody.”

Moore said the next principal must be prepared to tackle the many financial and other obstacles the University faces in the coming years.

“It’s a very demanding role,” she said. “The candidates have to be committed to taking on those challenges, whatever they may be.”

Moore said the resignations of vice-principals Andrew Simpson and David Mitchell in November 2008 haven’t impacted the search process.

“Obviously, the next principal would be the person to chair the search committees for those people if the timing works out.”

The committee is sticking to its goal of coming to a decision by spring 2009, Moore said, but the exact date remains fluid.

Moore said the committee hopes to find someone who can start this summer.

“The people we’re looking at are very committed and have lots of responsibility, so the time we’re looking at would depend on the final choice.”

Moore said in the case of a delay, Principal Tom Williams is prepared to remain at his post for longer than his intended 12 to 14 month term, which began on May 1, 2008.

“Principal Williams is willing to keep the helm, as it were,” she said.

The University is working with Russell Reynolds Associates, an executive recruitment firm with staff in both Toronto and New York City, Moore said.

She said the search was intended to start broad and narrow its focus as time goes on, adding that it has many similarities to the typical search process for vacancies in academic posts.

“The underlying academic qualifications are similar,” she said. “Then you add on the layer of the executive leadership that’s required for the job.”

No decision has yet been made on whether to begin hiring replacements for outgoing vice-principals Andrew Simpson and David Mitchell or whether those positions will be filled once the new principal has been found. That decision will be made at the meeting of the Board of Directors in March.

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