Search for next university president narrows candidates

The search for Mercyhurst’s next president is down to four candidates.

Starting Dec. 12, the Selection Committee worked with various resources to select the candidates that would best fulfill the role of becoming Mercyhurst’s new president.

Member of the Board of Trustees, alumnus and co-chair for the selection committee, Joseph NeCastro, said that the process of selecting the next president has been successful.

“It’s gone extremely well; it’s well organized and well managed. We have had very good response to the position opening. We have managed to stay on our plan, so we will have our new president by our deadline, which is of course before summer starts,” NeCastro said.

According to NeCastro, the most important objective for the search committee has always been finding a candidate to replace the outgoing university president, Thomas Gamble, Ph.D.

When searching for candidates, NeCastro said that the committee looked for someone who would best fulfill the roles of president for an institution like Mercyhurst, but also someone who was prepared to take on its future challenges. The processes to finding the candidates started with creating a position description or an online executive profile, for what the position is and what are the selection criteria.

“We looked for someone who understands and embraces the mission of the college and the Sisters of Mercy. We looked for someone who has experience at either an academic institution or another institution. Someone who has a vision of future higher education and idea of how to achieve that vision,” NeCastro said.

The committee also took into account the skills any future president would need to handle the financial circumstances facing Mercyhurst, NeCastro said.

“Somebody who has experience in enrollment management and fundraising, most importantly, and of course, for the challenges for an institution like Mercyhurst faces at this time,” NeCastro said.

From the start, the committee relied on the input from various constituencies from the university when selecting the finalists. Throughout the semester, they met with various constituencies, in the form of faculty, staff and student forums, to ask for feedback and created forums on what they wanted to see in the new president.

The committee also relied on feedback from student representatives, such as Mercyhurst Student Government president and member of the Search Committee, Nicholas Latta.

“It’s important to have a student in the committee and understand what goes on in the process and I think it allows us to have a voice, which I think is very fair,” Latta said.

After the creation of the executive profile, the committee engaged in the services of a consulting firm called R.H. Terry, which specializes in recruiting senior executives for colleges and university, according to NeCastro.

“They do a lot of work to source candidates, they advertise in the appropriate journals, they contact the potential candidates and do some screening and they narrow down the field,” NeCastro said.

The consulting firm passed along over 80 candidates to the committee, from which the committee narrowed it down to nine and eventually to the four finalists.
“All very qualified candidates, all very promising and I think anyone would make a great leader for Mercyhurst,” NeCastro said.

While the search committee was charged with finding candidates, the Board of Trustees will get to choose the candidate. After the candidates visit campus, the search committee will meet and make a recommendation to the board on who they think should be president. They can recommend any of the four and it could be one or all four of the candidates. The board will select the new president in early June.

The four candidates include: John T. Delaney, Ph.D., Endowed dean, Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration, University of Pittsburgh; Robert A. Gervasi, Ph.D., President of Quincy University, Quincy, Ill,; Laura Niesen de Abruna, Ph.D., Provost and vice president for academic affairs, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, Conn.; Michael T. Victor, J.D., LL.D., President of Lake Erie College, Painesville, Ohio.