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Next president must take NIU to ‘next level’

Published: Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012 8:42 p.m. CDT

DeKALB – The 28 men and women in charge of finding Northern Illinois University’s next president can agree on one thing: he or she needs to be a proverbial Super-man/woman.

Each member of the presidential search committee sounded off on what they would like to see in the 12th president of the university. They all agreed that outgoing president John Peters was fantastic in every way – they now just need someone who can take the whole school “to the next level.”

A group of 28 Northern Illinois University students, faculty, staff and officials began their search for the university’s next president Thursday.

While the Board of Trustees will make the final decision about NIU President John Peters’ replacement, this committee will sift through candidates for the next several months before making their final recommendation. The board voted to have a new president in place by July 1, 2013. Parker Executive Search, a global executive search firm, will look for candidates.

Their search committee’s first meeting was a long introductory one, as the group became acquainted with their goals, the rules, and with each other.

Even at their first meeting, the group reached consensus on a couple of items. They all agreed that Peters was an excellent president, and they wanted to have the 12th president of the university take the school “to the next level” – a phrase that was often repeated.

NIU trustee and committee co-chair Robert Boey related his own experiences with finding the university’s president during their last search in 1999-2000.

“When you see the right [candidate], you will know. ...You will have that feeling,” Boey said. Boey said this was the feeling he had after meeting Peters.

During the university’s annual address Oct. 12, Peters announced that he was stepping down June 30, having served 13 years at the university. Boey said Peters will be around for a year to assist with the transition and provide advice to his successor.

Each member of the committee present spoke on the qualities they would like to see in their next university president, but other being a proverbial “Superman,” no common picture emerged. Some said they wanted to see an academic in the spot, but others expressed interest in having someone who didn’t fit the usual profile.

“I would like for someone to have the courage and vision to recognize this (university) model isn’t working,” said accountancy professor Pamela Smith. “(Someone who is) being open-minded of taking aggressive, successful steps to operate as a public institution with a private mindset.”

And while it is not one of their set criteria, a number of committee members made deliberate efforts to recognize that the next university president could be a woman – a first for NIU.

NIU’s legal team advised the committee that their activities fall under the rules and provisions of the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act.

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