ECU Chancellor Search Committee chooses search firm

Oct. 28, 2015

By Jeannine Manning Hutson
ECU News Services

The search committee tasked with finding the next leader of East Carolina University has selected a national firm to help with that responsibility.

The Chancellor Search Committee, led by Board of Trustees Chairman Steve Jones, received their charge from University of North Carolina President Tom Ross during its first meeting Oct. 27.

Ross, who will step down as president in January, thanked the committee members for agreeing to serve. “There is no more important service that you can render to this university than the service on this committee. Finding the right person to lead a campus is critical and your role is obviously the most important in identifying individuals, who can take the place of an individual who I believe has led this campus quite well,” he said.

“This is going to be a great search because this institution is in really great shape and poised to go to even higher levels,” he said.

Ross outlined the UNC process for nominating candidates and gave his thoughts on the characteristics he would suggest looking for the university’s next chancellor, including unwavering integrity and the courage to stand for what is right; a deep commitment to the value and importance of higher education and the role of liberal arts within it; an understanding of the mission of ECU; experience in health care; a collaborative leadership style and strong people skills; and an understanding of the relationship of education and the economy.

Finally, Ross encouraged the committee to “keep an open mind.” He said considering a candidate’s background is important – whether they come from academia or the business world – but “what is most important is to find a leader, who embraces higher education and who can lead this institution.”

Witt/Kieffer was selected as the search firm to work with the committee. Lucy Leske, senior partner and co-managing director for education practice, presented on behalf of the firm, which recently worked with UNC Asheville to find Dr. Mary K. Grant as its new chancellor.

Leske pointed out she and Witt/Kieffer are familiar with the state having led searches for the chancellors at N.C. Central, Winston-Salem State, Fayetteville State universities and UNC Pembroke. The firm also worked with UNC system institutions in searches for senior position candidates, such as deans.

After the meeting adjourned, Jones said he was feeling positive about the start of the search process.

“It was a good meeting in terms of bringing the committee together for the first time,” he said. “We ultimately chose Witt/Kieffer which has a long track record and has had success in providing candidates with strong leadership skills.”

At the conclusion of the search, the committee will present three candidates to the ECU Board of Trustees, which will accept the full slate or send it back to committee. The Board of Trustees will then forward the slate of three unranked finalists to the UNC system president-elect Margaret Spellings for consideration. Upon nomination by Spellings, the new chancellor must be elected by the UNC Board of Governors, which oversees the UNC system.

According to UNC policy, the budget for the search process will be set by the Board of Trustees in consultation with the UNC system president and will be paid for with non-appropriated funds by the university.

The search committee approved a working timeline with a goal of selection of the new chancellor by mid-Spring with a start date of July 1.

Chancellor Steve Ballard announced this summer his plans to step down effective July 1, 2016. He has served as chancellor since 2004.

Updates on the committees’ progress will be posted to the following website: