The Herald: Good selection process for Winthrop

February 8, 2013 

Winthrop University has done a good job making its selection of a new president transparent and soliciting opinions from the public. This is both an excellent way to inspire confidence in the selection process and to welcome the new president to the community.

Winthrop’s Board of Trustees had to sift through more than 100 applications from people hoping to succeed Anthony D. DiGiorgio, the longest-serving college president in South Carolina, who retires in June after 24 years at Winthrop.

The list eventually was whittled down to 12. And on Jan. 25, four finalists were announced. Finalists include two women and two men, one of whom is African-American.

Listing the finalists would have fulfilled the university’s legal obligations under the state’s Freedom of Information Act. But the board took extra steps to fully introduce the candidates to the community in which the new president will automatically be a leading figure.

All four will visit Rock Hill for three days each. The visit will include a luncheon on campus attended by a broad cross-section of residents. During the luncheon, the candidates will have a chance to talk about their backgrounds, interests and qualifications, and answer questions.

First up was Jeff Braden, a psychology professor and dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at North Carolina State in Raleigh, who arrived Tuesday.

The university also has posted an online questionnaire that can be used by those attending luncheons to evaluate the four candidates.

In addition to Braden, the three other candidates include Elizabeth Dale, vice president of advancement for Drexel University in Philadelphia; Ulysses Hammond, vice president for administration at Connecticut College; and Jayne Marie Comstock, a communications professor working with the Executive Leadership Group of the American Council on Education.

On paper, all the candidates appear eminently qualified for the job.

DiGiorgio has left big shoes to fill. He has presided over significant changes at Winthrop, not the least of which were capital projects totaling nearly $60 million, projects that transformed the campus.

He also leaves a university that is consistently regarded as one of the best and most prestigious liberal arts institutions in the region. No wonder so many people were eager to place their names in contention to succeed DiGiorgio.

We are thankful that the community will get a good look at the four finalists and that a large contingent will have the chance to meet and assess them face to face. Again, the openness of the process helps ensure that the final choice will be the right one.

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