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Friday, 18 March 2011 15:57

Hunt for new WCU chancellor in the homestretch

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It’s not a bad job, really. There’s a nice house, more than 7,000-square-feet, that’s currently undergoing a nearly $300,000 facelift. You don’t have to pay for utilities, grounds keeping or for a housekeeper. Then there’s the salary, ranging from $236,979 to $379,180. Oh, and free use of a car.

So perhaps it’s not that surprising a whole lot of people apparently want to become Western Carolina University’s next chancellor. Longtime leader John Bardo exits the scene in fewer than four months. He’ll leave July 1 after more than 15 years on the job.

Steve Warren, WCU’s board of trustees’ president, indicated the search is progressing well and is in the homestretch. He said the 16 members of the search committee (which he also chairs) believe they will have Bardo’s replacement hired when the position officially opens. A search firm started with a pool of 22 candidates; the committee has since winnowed that to an unspecified number.

The committee has been tightlipped about exactly who they are talking to about the job, but Warren said during a recent trustees’ meeting that the candidates are of extremely high caliber.

“In terms of the quality of the candidates we have reviewed, they are just outstanding,” Warren said, then added, “everyone wants to play for a winning team.”

The chancellor-to-be has to meet some towering expectations, including interpreting what the board of trustees mean by “the importance of a successful athletics program” (the football team went 2-9 this fall, with the last winning season in 2005); the unique culture of Western North Carolina; the relationship between WCU and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians; WCU’s “passionate dedication” to teaching and learning; and so on, according to a job description.

What’s absent from that shopping list is mention of the difficulty any chancellor is going to face given the anticipated cutback in state dollars. The university is preparing for $8.6 million being slashed, tumbledown from a state facing a more than $2 billion shortfall.

Bardo has been dealing with much of that financial fallout now. The university is cutting 10 positions this spring and another 15 come July 1.

“I’d rather deal with it myself than to leave it for the next person,” said Bardo, who told the university’s board of trustees this month that the two most difficult parts of his job are telling parents when a child has died, and informing faculty or staff they no longer have jobs.

Bardo makes a base salary of $280,000.

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