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FGCU resets presidential search as all three original finalists bow out

Man sits behind a microphone with one hand raised in an upward position as if he's making a point. A coffee cup, water bottle, and nameplate are in front of him.
FGCU meeting streaming feed
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Special to WGCU
Outgoing FGCU President Mike Martin talks at the university's board of trustees meeting Thursday, Nov. 17. A motion to charge the search committee with reopening the search for a new president was approved unanimously. Martin has agreed to stay on while the selection process plays out.

FGCU's board of trustees met Thursday for what many thought might be the selection of a new FGCU president. Instead, they decided to begin the process all over again.

A two-week delay in the selection of Florida Gulf Coast University's fifth president in 25 years has put that process back to the beginning.

The university's board of trustees met Thursday for what many thought might be the selection of a new FGCU president after a two week delay. Instead, the board members discussed the withdrawal of two of the three candidates during that delay and then decided to begin the process all over again.

"I thank you all for your patience as we had a little bit of A hiccup a few weeks ago," trustees member and chairman Blake Gable told the other members. "I apologize and as chair I take responsibility for that. I thought we were in a position to be able to move forward. We clearly we were not and the unintended consequences of that are a few of our candidates have dropped out."

Two of the finalists, Tod A. Laursen, Ph.D., and Susana V. Rivera-Mills, Ph.D., let the selection committee know in the days after the delay was announced that they had other options and were withdrawing.

Gable said Dr. Laursen had finalized another opportunity that he said was a better fit for him and his family. Dr. Rivera-Mills opted to remain at Ball State University in Indiana, where she serves as provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs.

Robert G. Gregerson, Ph.D., who had experience at FGCU as a dean at the College of Arts and Sciences, a professor of biology and as an acting provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, was left as the final candidate.

However, Gregerson, president of the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, has also now announced he is not continuing his candidacy.

At the next meeting of the Board of Trustees, Dec. 8, the chair of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee will present an updated timeline and an outline of the search process.

Outgoing President Mike Martin has said he is willing to extend his time at FGCU, and the board will take action on this extension during the meeting. Details about the Dec. 8 meeting will be shared with the campus community and posted to the presidential search website, fgcu.edu/presidentialsearch, as they become available.

The delay in selecting a new president happened during the Nov. 2 meeting that was originally supposed to produced a new president. Instead, after the trustees returned from a lunch break, Gable announced the delay.

"Trustees, I'd like to recommend a slight change in plans," Gable said. "I know that all of you who are here are awaiting the big moment. But, I just had a conversation with the chair of the board of governors."

FGCU Board of Trustees chairman Blake Gable presided over  a meeting of the university's board of trustees Thursday for what many thought might be the selection of a new FGCU president. Instead, with the withdrawal of two of the three candidates during that delay, the board decided to begin the process all over again. A motion by Trustee Luis Rivera to charge the search committee with reopening the search, table any further discussion on candidates that have been proposed and by the next board meeting present a timeline and a process outline was approved unanimously by the board.
FGCU trustees meeting streaming feed
/
Special to FGCU
FGCU Board of Trustees chairman Blake Gable presided over a meeting of the university's board of trustees Thursday for what many thought might be the selection of a new FGCU president. Instead, with the withdrawal of two of the three candidates during that delay, the board decided to begin the process all over again. A motion by Trustee Luis Rivera to charge the search committee with reopening the search, table any further discussion on candidates that have been proposed and by the next board meeting present a timeline and a process outline was approved unanimously by the board.

In that conversation, Gable said that while Board of Governors chairman Brian Lamb expressed a willingness to be accommodating to FGCU, especially given the impacts of Hurricane Ian in SWFL, it was being considered "atypical" for a decision on selecting a new state university president to come forward only a few business days before a Board of Governors meeting, which was set Nov. 9 and 10.

"What I'd like to propose to the trustees is that we convene a special meeting in two weeks," Gable suggested. "The board of governors does play a role in the process..."

Gable thanked the trustees and all who worked toward having the selection completed Wednesday but said it would be better to implement the delay. A vote was taken on the delay and approved with one vote cast against the delay.

According to the search timeline, the transfer of duties is expected to take place following President Mike Martin’s retirement at the end of the calendar year.

Gable said that after the second candidate withdrew he spoke with Dr. Martin about staying on a little longer.

"After the official withdrawal on Monday, I spoke to the President ... and asked him if he would be willing to continue to serve while we work through this process," Gable. "He was gracious enough to do so. So I've spoken with the Board of Governors about that as well, and there's some things that we would have to do procedurally that we can we can handle over the course of the next few weeks, but I want to thank President Martin for his willingness to continue to serve."

Martin became FGCU’s fourth president on July 1, 2017, following Dr. Wilson G. Bradshaw’s retirement. He has more than four decades of experience in public higher-education institutions across the nation, including the University of Florida.

Martin spoke at length at the end of Thursday's board meeting about what had happened and his suggestions on the ongoing process of selection.

"I'm the one person on this table that's been through this process four times, and here's what you learn about recruiting a president," Martin said. "You have a search and screen committee, but from day one until the appointment you recruit, you not only bring in candidates, but I think the point that trustee Roepstorff made is you gotta sell them on the university while you're also evaluating them. That's got to be a fundamental part of all of our responsibilities."

The reason, Martin said, is that candidates of this caliber have options.

"And that's the difference between many other searches here than a presidency. And the reason you had withdrawals, they had alternatives." he said.

The president said that as the search goes forward the mood across campus that not only does there need to be a search and screen, but there has to be continual recruitment.

"And it's harder here, right now than most places for two reasons," he said. "At least, we don't have tenure ... I've been a tenured full professor six times. Because that was part of the sales pitch, and secondly, it's a very high cost housing environment, so it can't be just come."

Martin said the fact that it didn't work out this time should not be sent as a message that good people don't want to come here.

"I'm prepared to say that any time. I wouldn't stay on if I did not believe that this is such a high quality institution, that it needs to continue to move forward and I will say that in any form," Martin said. "But, also, you hit a bump on the road and right now there are so many presidencies open out there. And so many vice presidencies out there with a limited number of candidates that it's a highly competitive sellers market. And that's just the reality of things."

Martin said he wanted people to understand the nature of the market they are facing.

"From day one, no matter who you're looking at, (you need) to recruit them simultaneously to evaluate it. So that's that's my sermonette."

FGCU, founded 1991 as Florida’s 10th state university, began classes in August 1997.

Copyright 2022 WGCU. To see more, visit WGCU.

Michael Braun
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