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Presidential search committee brainstorms qualities

The presidential search committee held its first meeting during graduation weekend and, with all members present, established a general timeline for the next 10 months, started compiling a long list of potential candidates and began coming up with qualifications and criteria for the position.

Those characteristics are likely to include leadership, commitment to academic excellence and "unquestionable moral and ethical leadership," said Robert Steel, vice chair of the Board of Trustees and chair of the search committee.

"We're looking for a leader who can lead the place. Leaders come in all sizes and shapes," he said, adding that the committee will release the official description of the type of candidate they seek next month. The "odds are highest" that the next president will have experience in the academic world, Steel said.

With the planned departure of President Nan Keohane in June 2004, the Board of Trustees has charged the 15-member search committee to deliver the name of her replacement by the Board's February 2004 meeting.

The search committee-two members of which participated in the search for Keohane almost a decade ago-is comprised of Trustees, faculty, students, administrators and an employee.

"[The committee members were] fun, friendly, upbeat and ready to get going," Steel said. "Everyone is there for one reason. You talk about team sports; this is the ultimate team sport. No one is going to be a star here. We're going to win as one team."

Steel could not offer specifics on the search timeline, but said the committee will meet as a whole about once a month over the summer and subcommittees will meet on an ad hoc basis during the fall. Once the official description of desired qualities is released, committee members will begin paring down the list of potential candidates.

The courting process of candidates will be an intricate and delicate one, Steel said, with committee members gathering information about the candidates and then ranking them as "high," "medium" or "low" priorities.

"People will be interested and we'll be interested in people, and the intersection of those two groups will be really the focus," Steel said. "Once there are five or six candidates, then several of us on the committee will visit with them, and we'll discuss things and see if they are interested in talking about it."

Several thousand letters were sent to faculty, student leaders, trustees and alumni asking for suggestions of names and presidential qualities. The committee has already received over 100 responses, Steel said.

Steel also met with faculty members during an executive session of the Academic Council earlier this month, and the student representatives-senior Devon MacWilliam and biology graduate student Lou D'Amico-sat in on Duke Student Government's first summer advisory meeting Wednesday.

At the DSG advisory meeting, participants discussed qualities they hope the next president will have.

"I'm looking for a president who can articulate their goals at the beginning, who continues to recognize that Duke is a unique institution and that students turn down Harvard and they turn down Morehead scholarships because Duke has something no other university has," said DSG President Matt Slovik, senior.

Steel is open to nominations by the Duke community.

"You got ideas, shoot them in, baby," Steel said.

Andrew Collins contributed to this story.