Ohio State trustees: search for new leader not predetermined, no candidate in mind from start


COLUMBUS — The committee searching for Ohio State University’s next president has no candidates in mind and there is nothing predetermined about the process, the man leading the search committee said today.

There is also no firm timeline, although searches for outside candidates typically last about 300 days, said Jeffrey Wadsworth, an Ohio State trustee and president and CEO of Battelle Memorial Institute, a private research organization.

“We have discussed no candidates whatsoever,” Wadsworth said today after the first meeting of the search committee.

“This is an open search,” he said. “I am absolutely committed to creating a process that will bring the best people forward.”

Seven years ago, the university rehired Gordon Gee — Ohio State president from 1990 to 1997 — in a rare move after a 10-month search that cost about $200,000. Gee, then Vanderbilt chancellor, initially turned down the offer but reconsidered.

This time, there is no predetermined candidate, Wadsworth said. The committee will take input from students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members, as well as hiring a search firm.

“It’s a process and we want to make that process yield the best results,” Wadsworth said. “There is no predetermination.”

Trustees are seeking Gee’s successor after he retired earlier this month, a few weeks after remarks were made public that he made months earlier criticizing Notre Dame and jabbing Roman Catholics and Southeastern Conference schools.

Gee had a reputation for off-the-cuff remarks that led to public apologies — a year ago, he likened running the university to “the Polish Army” — and trustees warned him in March that more misspeaking could lead to his dismissal.

The issues surrounding Gee’s departure won’t have an influence on the search process or candidates Ohio State is looking for, said Bobby Schottenstein, chairman of the trustee board.

The one thing a great leader has is the skills to inspire others to do great things, he said.

“We’re seeking a great leader,” Schottenstein said. “We’re not seeking someone to hide behind the drapes.”

The University of California, Michigan and Penn State are among big universities also undertaking searches for presidents. Though the pool of candidates capable of winning the job is relatively small, Schottenstein isn’t worried.

“We can compete against anyone,” he said. “And we intend to.”

Gee, 69, earned about $1.9 million annually in compensation, bonuses and deferred benefits. Schottenstein said details of his retirement package will be released soon.