The perfect president sought by Clemson

Clemson University is looking for a new president with “a sincere and heart-felt appreciation for the Clemson family” who has a “profound commitment to an organizational philosophy that always prioritizes students and puts their educational needs and well-being first.”

Those are among the attributes listed in a draft version of a leadership statement the Board of Trustees’ presidential search committee approved Thursday.

The group also wants someone who is “an enthusiastic supporter of intercollegiate athletics” and possesses “an accessible leadership style and an open and approachable presence.”

Search committee chairman Smyth McKissick said the third paragraph of the statement “nails it.”

It says, “The next president will be a visionary leader who understands and appreciates the unique relationship the university has with the state of South Carolina and its citizens as the state’s land-grant institution. At the same time, the university readily accepts and enthusiastically embraces its national and international role of preparing global citizens to contribute positively to society. The person selected to be the next president will have strategic knowledge of the role and mission of a dynamic land-grant university in an ever-changing world.”

The committee, meeting at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research in Greenville, decided to fine-tune the document and submit an ad to The Chronicle of Higher Education and other publications on Monday to formally announce the search for Clemson’s 15th president.

The hope is to have the ads in circulation the week after July 4.

A video including interviews with faculty and students is in production with hopes of inspiring candidates about what makes Clemson special.

The university also is setting up a web page – – and plans to send 600 letters to key constituents in the business community, university organizations and recipients of honorary Clemson degrees, seeking nominations in its quest to find a successor for James F. Barker.

Barker, 65, announced in April that he plans to step down and return to the School of Architecture as a professor. He said, however, that he will stay in the position until a new president is on board. The board hasn’t set a timetable to name a new president.

The search committee developed the four-page leadership statement after meeting with faculty, students, staff, alumni and others and distilling input from sources representing about 125,000 Clemson constituents, McKissick said.

“The point was to make darn sure that when we choose our next president, we’ll get the right fit,” he said.

A common theme that emerged was the desire for someone who understands the culture of Clemson, he said.

That culture, or “Clemson family” concept, is described in the leadership statement as having been “forged by its land-grant origins and fostered by a history of putting students first, a sense of caring, patriotism, genuineness, a remarkable work ethic, competitive spirit, inclusiveness and a sense of true civic responsibility.”

At the suggestion of Trustee Louis Lynn, the committee inserted the word “diversity” in that sentence.

The committee also decided to add a link to the will of Thomas G. Clemson, which many people in the constituent meetings referenced as an essential guiding document.

The ad doesn’t list specifications such as type of degree or a minimum number of years as a university administrator in order to avoid cutting off applicants who might be great for the job but just out of the range.

The leadership statement outlines the history of the university and closes with an upbeat assessment of the accomplishments of Barker’s tenure, including raising nearly $900 million in private gifts, an increasingly higher quality of students, surviving the recession on a firm financial footing, and new facilities and programs such as CU-ICAR.