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USF St. Pete CEO finalist list narrowed down to 11

They come from Montana, New York, Arizona and everywhere in-between. They are deans, consultants, engineers and mathematicians. They’ve worked at places ranging from NASA to Kell High School.

In all, 65 people have applied for the executive officer position at the USF St. Petersburg campus. The campus’ search committee, now about six months old, was given the daunting task of working through foot-high stacks of resumes and narrowing the field down to the best candidates.

On Thursday, the search committee cut the list down to 11 candidates. They will be invited to campus Feb. 25 — 26 for a round of interviews. Committee member Mark Wilson said that after the interviews, the field will be narrowed down to about three candidates. Those candidates will be presented to USF President Judy Genshaft, who will make the final selection.

Wilson, who described the list of candidates as “top-notch,” said the committee hopes to report to Genshaft during the first week of April. That means that USF St. Petersburg should have its new CEO about a year after the well-publicized departure of Bill Heller. Heller, who served in the position for 10 years, was forced from the position by Genshaft last June.

Reports on the final 11 candidates were given to the committee by Jan Greenwood, a search consultant hired to help find candidates for the job. Three of the 11 tied for the most votes, 12, from the committee. They are Terry Hickey, William Gray and Diane Vines.

Greenwood described Hickey as an obvious fit for USF St. Petersburg. Currently a professor of psychology at the University of Akron, Hickey has served in dean, chair and associate provost rolls, giving him administrative experience mixed with an academic background.

Gray’s strength is that his current job is similar to the St. Petersburg position. Gray now serves as the CEO of Washington State University at Spokane, a remote campus for a large institution. He has experience handling an annual budget of $8.2 million and 250 faculty and staff.

Vines’ resume is nearly 50 pages long. She is currently vice chancellor for the Oregon University System. But, for Vines, everything began in St. Petersburg. She attended St. Petersburg Junior College, now known as St. Petersburg College, in 1964. In her career, she has received almost 150 awards and distinctions.

Receiving 10 committee votes apiece were Larry Lemanski and Gary Krahenbuhl. Greenwood said Lemanski’s strength is that “he knows how to work the federal government for grants.” Currently the vice president for research and graduate studies at Florida Atlantic University, Lemanski earned his Ph.D. in zoology. He has served on several boards of directors and as a department chairman.

Krahenbuhl is currently the senior vice president at Arizona State University. He has served at that institution in a position of chair or higher since 1979.

Receiving nine committee votes each were Karen White, Dorothy Leland and Judith Prince. White received her education in music from the University of Arkansas. She is a violinist as well as the music dean at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, also a remote campus for a research institution.

Leland, currently a professor of philosophy at Florida Atlantic University, was described by Greenwood as having broad experience in running a university. She has been vice president of FAU’s Boca Raton campus since 2001.

Prince also has the experience of leading a remote campus of a research institution. She currently serves as Interim Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of South Carolina-Spartanburg. She has been in the University of South Carolina System since 1980.

Coming in with eight votes were Dolores Cross and Bonnie Yegidis. According to Greenwood, Cross is a seasoned president. She served in that capacity at Morris Brown College in Atlanta for four years until personal problems forced her to step down. She was the first female president of the college.

Yegidis, if she were to get the job, would be coming back to her roots. Currently the dean of the school of social work at the University of Georgia, Yegidis was educated at USF. She served as professor, chairwoman and director of the school of social work at USF until departing in 1995.

The final candidate, earning seven committee votes, is Richard Millman. Trained in mathematics, Millman served as president of Knox College in Illinois. Greenwood said he inherited a $2.5-million budget deficit at that institution, and made the decision to eliminate some positions and allow no faculty raises. From there, he went to the National Science Foundation, where he said he currently supervises a $36-million budget.

In addition to these 11, Greenwood said she hopes to provide what the committee has called a “mystery candidate.” This candidate, Greenwood said, is a female president at a high-profile location. Greenwood said this candidate does not want her identity revealed until the latest possible time because the publicity may adversely affect her current institution.

Maybe most surprising was who was not on the list. Ralph Wilcox, who is currently serving as interim CEO, informed Greenwood that he would not seek the position. No reason was given for his decision. Wilson said he did not want to comment about Wilcox’s decision.

That move thwarts some conspiracy theorists at USF. After Heller was forced from the CEO position, Genshaft named Wilcox, who had worked in her office, as the interim CEO. That led many to claim Genshaft made the move in an effort to tighten her grip on the waterfront campus. Some argued that Genshaft did not want the campus to earn its long-sought after autonomy, a claim that she has emphatically denied.

With the current crop, Wilson said he hopes the committee has put together an admirable list. Now, as the committee is set to begin a grueling period of about 24 hours’ worth of interviews in two days, Wilson said the attention will turn to candidates’ personalities.

“Each person brings a different persona,” Wilson said. “They are all qualified. We are just looking for the best fit.”

Wilson said the decision the committee ultimately faces will come at a difficult time for USF St. Petersburg.

“We are in a position to increase the distinctiveness and character of the campus,” Wilson said. “(We need) strong leadership.”