Perry for President?
Sat November 3, 2007 10:49 pm

No, not of the United States. President of Texas A&M. Honest. That story is making the rounds at A&M and has found its way to Austin.

A&M has been without a president for a year, since Robert Gates left to become Secretary of Defense. The Battalion, the A&M student newspaper, carried a brief article last February:

The process to select the next president of Texas A&M is underway, and a selection could be made by September, said Doug Slack, chair of the presidential search advisory committee and speaker of the faculty senate, in an e-mail distributed campuswide Wednesday.

The selection committee, appointed by Michael McKinney, chancellor of the A&M University System, will sift through the candidates and recommendations for potential candidates. After narrowing down the number of candidates to a final three, those names will be given to McKinney.

McKinney will choose a finalist, who will then be approved by the Board of Regents.

A subsequent article, published on September 12, reported that three finalists had been chosen. Nothing more has been heard from the search committee, and it appears that the ball has been passed to the regents.

The Presidential Search Advisory Committee, which was established to assist in the search for a new Texas A&M president, has submitted a list of three recommended candidates to A&M's Board of Regents.

The names and specific information about the candidates is not yet being released, said Bill Flores, president of the Association of Former Students and member of the search committee.

More than 100 candidates applied for the position, and the search committee worked to select the most desirable contenders in order to make their recommendations to the Board of Regents, Flores said.

"There was a pool of 140 applicants and, of those, I believe 40 are sitting presidents at other colleges," he said.

"[The three candidates] are all sitting presidents of large public institutions, and I think any of them will be a world-class president at Texas A&M," Flores said.

Flores said that the search committee's goal was to find a president that was not only qualified, but would fit in at A&M.

"We tried to find a candidate that would fit in with A&M," he said. "We had a list of attributes we worked with that was designed around A&M."

The position opened up after A&M President Robert Gates left in December to become Secretary of Defense. Since Gates' departure, Eddie J. Davis has served as interim president of A&M.

The search committee was entrusted by A&M System Chancellor Mike McKinney to "provide valuable insight, perspective and judgment in identifying the best candidates to consider for the A&M presidency," according to a memo from R. Douglas Slack, professor of wildlife science and chair of the committee.

The search committee consisted of members from a wide range of backgrounds, said Gwendolyn Webb-John assistant professor of educational administration.

"The committee was comprised of individuals from A&M faculty members, students, as well as members from the community. There was a wide rage of people interested in (this)," she said.

The search committee has now disbanded, and it is up to the Board of Regents to continue with the decision making process.

Flores said that the board is not required to choose a president based on the committee's recommendations, but he thinks it is likely they will.

The board is under no strict timeline to complete the selection process, John White, board vice chairman, said in a news release.

"We need to get this right," he said. "We are choosing the leader of one of the top institutions in the country, and we want to make sure the individual we select has the background, energy and vision needed to lead a world-class institution like Texas A&M University."

A&M currently is being run by an interim president and an interim executive vice-president/provost. And the top three offices in the A&M System are former Perry staffers, including chancellor and former legislative buddy Mike McKinney. One version of the Perry-for-President story is that McKinney would be named to hold both offices, chancellor and president, until the regents (all of whom are Perry appointees) would appoint Perry as president.

I want to stress that these are just stories. I would not represent to readers that they are based on fact. But I would represent to you that I have written a number of articles about A&M, and I have some pretty good sources on the campus, and that I hear the gossip. It would not surprise me that Perry might be looking for a soft landing at Texas A&M. I have always thought that there was a likelihood that he might end up there, although I think he would be a better fit as chancellor than president. Perry would be a splendid ambassador and fundraiser for the A&M system. He has no business aspiring to be its academic leader, and I find it hard to believe that he, and the regents, would not recognize that.

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