On Dec. 24 of last year, it was announced that Albion’s 17th president Mathew Johnson had resigned from his position following backlash from the community. Shortly after Johnson’s departure, Albion Board of Trustees member and alumnus Brian McPheely ’78 became chair of the Presidential Search Committee.
The committee is composed of representatives from the board, faculty, staff and students and launched its own section of the Albion College website dedicated to documenting progress in the search on April 15.
In the time since Johnson’s resignation, McPheely and others have been working on creating the committee, which met for the first time earlier this month.
“Putting the search committee together took some time,” said McPheely. “We’ve been doing that and assigning people on the committee to different tasks that we’re going to have to look to do in the near future. Most of that time span was putting that committee together, getting a detailed list of who needs to be on the committee.”
One task the committee is currently working on is to collect input from various positions in the Albion College community. Part of this effort is done with the inclusion of two student representatives on the committee: Deon Sanders, Saginaw junior, and Justin Huttenlocher, Shelby Twp. junior.
“It’s been a lot of action, a lot of research. It’s definitely been an interesting, different process,” said Sanders.
Sanders and Huttenlocher have tabled twice in the Kellogg Center to receive input from their fellow students on what is desired for an Albion president from the student body.
According to Sanders, student input is crucial to the committee to ensure the process of selecting a president is done correctly.
“The last time, they realized a critical mistake that they made by just doing it their way and not having the student voice,” said Sanders. “So they made a big emphasis and they made it known that they want to do it right, and they don’t care how long it takes, they’re gonna do it right.”
McPheely also emphasized the need for the committee to collect input from various perspectives.
“That’s another group I put together within the search community to take a month just to make sure we get the characteristics of what we want in a president instead of just a few people. We wanted to broaden the scope,” said McPheely.
According to Sanders, student input has indicated an interest from students to look within Albion’s network.
“We want to see someone who is familiar with Albion College, whether that’s alumni based or that’s community based,” said Sanders. “Those have really been more of a stronger pull of where we want that candidate to be from.”
Students have also expressed interest in many repeating qualities from a potential presidential candidate.
“Ideally, we want someone who is very transparent,” said Sanders. “Someone who is very honest, a great leader, someone who’s about action as well. Just someone who is willing to be open minded and to work with extracurricular activities, like Greek Life. I know that’s really big. Just someone who is willing to give everyone a fair chance and show positivity and help Albion transcend in a way that it can transcend.”
The different priorities from different groups within the Albion College community is part of the reason collecting input is so important, according to McPheely.
“I’d really like to get a cross section,” said McPheely. “Your opinion may be different from mine. My opinion may be different from faculty. Faculty might be different from a staff or alumni. That’s why I started this group to say, ‘Let’s have broad groups of input so we can get this right.'”
With this collected input, McPheely and the committee will establish another group to find an appropriate external search firm to compile potential presidential candidates.
“We’re looking for a company that has experience in searches for college or university presidents,” said McPheely. “We certainly would like a search firm that understands the needs of a school like Albion College and we are going to look at all firms – we’ll look at large, medium and small – and then the group will make a decision in what we think fits Albion College’s needs the best.”
There is currently no set timeline for the committee to select Albion’s 18th president. This freedom allows for the committee to put in as much work as necessary, according to Sanders.
“We’re gonna take as long as we need,” said Sanders. “There’s no rush in getting this done because if you rush, you’re not gonna do it right.”
The lack of timeline also allows the committee to generate a list of potential candidates.
“I think it’s important for us to get a pool of candidates that are good candidates that would be a good fit for Albion and how long that takes, we’re not quite sure yet because we don’t have input from the search firm yet,” said McPheely.
This loose timeline was established with help from the commitment from Interim President Joe Calvaruso ’78 to stay in the position as long as the committee needs him to be.
“We’re very fortunate to have someone like Joe Calvaruso who lives in Albion, who went to Albion, as our interim president,” said McPheely. “We don’t feel like we’re under pressure to have something in by a certain date because Joe has committed to whatever time it takes. I have a lot of respect for Joe to step up and give us that time.”
Though the process has just begun, the committee is determined to find the right presidential fit for Albion College.
“We’re early in the process and we’re going to be diligent and take the time we need to find the best candidates for Albion College and make a good decision out of that group,” said McPheely.
Sanders expressed a similar sentiment for his fellow students.
“It’s important to know that the college is actively and really trying despite the bad start that we’ve had,” said Sanders. “I just want everyone to know the school is trying, the staff are trying definitely to rebuild that gap that was created.”