Backgrounds varied for CofC presidential finalists

By Ashley Barker
abarker@scbiznews.com
Published March 4, 2014
Story updated at 4:40 p.m.

The College of Charleston is a step closer to finding its next president.

The college’s board of trustees announced last week that it would contact five potential finalists. One of those potential finalists, whose name was not released, decided not to pursue the position, according to CofC spokesman Mike Robertson. He said the reason the candidate dropped out was not provided.

The college’s board of trustees released the names of four presidential finalists on Monday. The contenders at the time were Andrew H. Card Jr., a former White House chief of staff; Dennis “Jody” Encarnation, an international business consultant; Glenn F. McConnell, lieutenant governor of South Carolina; and Martha D. Saunders, a former president of the University of Southern Mississippi.

On Tuesday afternoon, the board announced Card “no longer wishes to be considered for the position.”

“It is not uncommon for candidates to stand down from consideration in a presidential search, and we thank Mr. Card for his interest,” Greg Padgett, chair of the college’s board of trustees and chair of the presidential search committee, said in a statement. “We are pleased with the experience and qualifications of our remaining finalists, and we look forward to having our campus community meet them during their campus visits.”

The finalists for the 22nd president of the College of Charleston are Andrew H. Card Jr., Dennis Encarnation, Glenn F. McConnell and Martha D. Saunders. (Photo by Ashley Barker)
The finalists for the 22nd president of the College of Charleston are Dennis Encarnation, Glenn F. McConnell and Martha D. Saunders. (Photo by Ashley Barker)
The board will develop a schedule for the interview process that includes dates for students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members to meet and talk to the candidates. Individual open sessions will be held with the finalists between the middle and end of March, according to Robertson. Depending on their schedules, the interviews may go into April, he added.

Encarnation, a retired international business consultant and faculty member at Harvard University, received his bachelor’s degree from CofC and his master’s and doctoral degrees from Duke University. He held academic positions at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and at the Harvard Business School. In addition, Encarnation held teaching and research posts at Stanford University, Davidson College and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

In 2009, Encarnation received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from CofC. In a document about his honorary degree, CofC said Encarnation has been hired by General Electric, Samsung, Unilever and other clients “to help create an environment where a global mindset can flourish.” He is also the author of five books on corporate strategy and international investment.

Charleston native McConnell, a former S.C. state senator and current lieutenant governor, earned his bachelor’s degree from CofC in 1969. He has a law degree from the University of South Carolina and previously held a private legal practice. McConnell announced in early January that he would apply for the president position instead of seeking re-election.

“I have no idea whether or not I will be successful,” McConnell said in a statement in January. “The most compelling reason I have chosen this course is because of my love for the College of Charleston and my belief that I can be of service to her in facing the complex challenges and capturing the opportunities the future holds.”

Saunders is currently the provost and a professor at the University of West Florida. She is the former president of Southern Mississippi and was the first female chancellor of the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater. She has a doctorate in communication theory and research from Florida State University in Tallahassee.

In 2011, she won the Stevie Award for Women in Business, which had approximately 1,800 nominees, according to a news release. Saunders also held various academic positions at Columbus State University and the University of West Florida.

Card, a University of South Carolina graduate, is currently the executive director in the Office of the Provost at Texas A&M University. He previously served as chief of staff to former President George W. Bush and as U.S. secretary of transportation for former President George H.W. Bush.

He was also vice president for government relations at General Motors Co. and served as acting dean of the Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M. In 2011, Card joined the board of directors for Lorillard Inc., the third-largest manufacturer of cigarettes in the country. He was also elected to the board of directors of railroad franchise Union Pacific Corp. in 2006.

“Each candidate would bring a unique set of strengths and capabilities to their leadership of the college, and we look forward to receiving feedback from all of our campus constituencies, and the larger community, on each of the finalists,” Padgett said in a statement.

In January, the college announced that more than 100 applications were submitted for the president position, which will be vacated by George Benson when he steps down and returns to the faculty as of June 30.

A 15-member presidential search committee — including trustees, foundation board members, faculty, staff, alumni and the president of the undergraduate student government association — was formed in October. The committee was responsible for providing a list of top presidential applicants to the board, which selected the finalists.

AGB Search, a national higher education search firm, is assisting the college in the search.

“The applications received in this presidential search are within the top quartile of the many searches we’ve conducted, both in terms of the number of applications and the outstanding breadth and experience of the candidate pool,” Jamie Ferrare, lead search committee consultant, said in January.

The college is looking for its 22nd president to have a “compelling record as a transformational leader,” according to its presidential search profile (.pdf).

“The new president should expect to prioritize service to the Lowcountry and to the people of South Carolina, while also continuing to nurture and develop the growing national reputation of the College of Charleston,” the profile said.

Reach Ashley Barker at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyNBarker.

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