Board of trustees to head search for new chancellor
With Chancellor Mark Wrighton’s retirement announcement, the University begins the search for his successor.
The new chancellor will be chosen by the University’s board of trustees through a global search with the help of an outside firm; however, candidates from within the University will also be considered.
One candidate for the position currently at Washington University is Provost Holden Thorp, who board of trustees chairman Craig Schnuck, former president of Schnuck Markets, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is “very much a candidate.”
“It’s the trustees’ job, it’s their show,” Thorp said. “And Mr. Schnuck’s comments to the Post-Dispatch were right on, as far as I’m concerned.”
Although he will not participate in the process of selecting his replacement, Wrighton echoed that the Chancellor position may well be filled through internal promotion.
“The talent pool is pretty rich here at Washington University—people with a lot of academic experience,” Wrighton said. “The person selected to succeed me could well be here, but the board has the responsibility to find the very best person, so there will be a comprehensive search.”
Thorp’s most recent position, prior to coming to Washington University in 2013, was as chancellor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he resigned after five years amidst controversy surrounding academic misconduct by NCAA athletes.
“He certainly has experience running a big university; he has the temperament for doing so. I think he’ll certainly be a serious candidate for the job, whether or not a national search and all the people involved in that will see that or will be looking for something else. That’s why we do national searches,” Steve Givens, the chancellor’s chief of staff, said. “He’s certainly the kind of person who should be in the running, and I think if selected, he would do a great job.”
Due to the comprehensive nature of the hiring process, the announcement of Wrighton’s plans to step down comes far in advance of his departure. The chancellor will remain in his position through at least the end of the Leading Together fundraising campaign—which concludes in June 2018 and has netted over $2.7 billion in contributions thus far—and has agreed to stay on through July 1, 2019, at the latest.
Looking forward, Wrighton believes the end of this campaign marks an opportunity for Washington University leaders to assess next steps.
“It’s interesting to think about this transition at the time of the conclusion of the fundraising campaign, where we’ve had relatively clear objectives. We’ve had some specific goals, both financial and programmatic. Now, I believe this University has flourished because planning has been a big part of our thinking in terms of looking ahead,” Wrighton said. “For the current academic leaders, it’s important for them to take stock and kind of think of where the important opportunities lie and how do we pursue them. So, planning is a very important preamble to pursuing the next era, and this gives everybody an opportunity for input, not just trustees.”
Wrighton hopes to stay involved with the University and will make himself available to the new chancellor in an advisory role—something that the prior chancellor, William Danforth, did for him 22 years ago.
“One of the things that is important for the new chancellor is for them to define their own agenda and pursue it. If they would seek my advice or council or knowledge of relationships, of course [I will provide it]; I want to see the University continue to flourish,” Wrighton said.