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Published: Friday, 5/14/2004

Toledo developer in running for Alaska college presidency

BY TOM TROY AND RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Douglas Douglas
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The prospective developer of the Marina District is a finalist in three college presidency searches, including a small Presbyterian college in Alaska.

Dr. Bruce Douglas, president of Harvard Development Co. of Toledo, was in Sitka, Alaska, planning to return tonight from several days of interviews at Sheldon Jackson College, he said yesterday.

Dr. Douglas received his doctorate in history over the weekend from the University of Toledo.

The college in Alaska confirmed that Dr. Douglas had visited the campus to interview for the position. Its Web site lists him as one of three finalists.

The liberal arts college of 250 students and the city of Sitka are on an island about 100 miles from Juneau in Alaska's southeastern panhandle. The college is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The college's outgoing president, C. Carlyle Haaland, will leave in December.

Dr. Douglas, 71, who is Catholic and lives in LaSalle, Mich., confirmed yesterday that he applied for the position and said that he is involved with two other college president searches. He declined to name the other colleges.

He said he informed friends of his who are college presidents - including UT President Daniel Johnson, the former provost of the University of Alaska at Anchorage - of his interest in such a position.

Dr. Douglas made a fortune in building and developing in Ohio, Michigan, and Florida.

He also has developed active roles in politics and education. Dr. Douglas served nine years on the University of Toledo board of trustees and made an unsuccessful run for the Ohio Democratic nomination for governor in 1998.

More important to local leaders, though, is the fact that the longtime Toledo builder was selected by Mayor Jack Ford in November to lead the development of the Marina District project on the east bank of the Maumee River.

Dr. Douglas pulled together a six-member team of developers called River East Joint Venture. Dr. Douglas and representatives of the mayor missed a self-imposed deadline of April 30 to negotiate a development agreement. Dr. Douglas indicated the negotiations were not progressing positively.

Mayor Ford said he was sure Dr. Douglas would make a good president, especially if the school was looking for somebody with business and fund-raising expertise.

But he questioned whether he'd have time to devote to the Marina District project if he becomes a college president.

"I would have many, many concerns as to his ability to focus on making that project what we'd like to see it become at the same time he is taking on the reins of a presidency and all the things he would have to do [as a college president]," Mr. Ford said.

Dr. Douglas said it would be possible to do both.

"There's six of us, we're all friends, and I have an airplane," Dr. Douglas said. "We made this commitment to the city because we believe it can make a dramatic difference. If they accept the proposal we made to them, what we can do there is not hard to do, but would be spectacular in its results."

As for the Alaskan job, Dr. Douglas said the college is recovering from financial problems and that he offered to work for no salary - much as he did in 2000 when he unsuccessfully tossed his hat into the race for superintendent of Toledo Public Schools.

"I have offered to do it without pay if that would make a difference. I know they're struggling to maintain enrollment. Obviously, they're faced with some financial difficulty," Dr. Douglas said.

Still, he said the college recently had a successful fund-raising campaigning, generating between $20 million and $30 million. He also said that the college has a number of physical assets.

"They have a lot of land which is developable if they chose to do it, and they're also on the water," he said.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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