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Executive search firm Isaacson, Miller to play significant role in selecting next president

<p>Isaacson, Miller will serve as the search firm in the process of finding a successor for President Brodhead, who announced in April his plans to retire.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p>

Isaacson, Miller will serve as the search firm in the process of finding a successor for President Brodhead, who announced in April his plans to retire.  

With the help of executive search firm Isaacson, Miller, Duke will soon have a new president. 

The firm—which was chosen by the Board of Trustees in May and will help select President Richard Brodhead's successor—specializes in recruiting leaders for non-profit organizations, focusing primarily on higher education. It has provided presidential search services for a number of peer institutions, such as the University of North Carolina system and New York University, according to the firm's website. 

“[Isaacson, Miller] is one of the leading search firms in the country, and it has done great work for Duke in the past,” said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs, in a press release issued by Isaacson, Miller.

In 2015, the firm assisted the UNC Board of Governors in finding candidates for the position of president of the UNC system. After considering more than 230 prospective candidates from the private sector, academia, government and the military, the Board eventually chose Margaret Spellings, former U.S. secretary of education, to lead the 17-campus system.

Isaacson, Miller also helped appoint a new executive dean for administration at Brown University, the executive director of philanthropic partnerships at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the assistant vice president of student life at the University of Chicago.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln paid $125,000 for Isaacson, Miller's services in finding a new chancellor last year, according to the Lincoln-Journal Star. 

This is not the first time Duke has worked with Isaacson, Miller. The firm was chosen to find candidates for several administrative positions in recent years, including the appointments for provost, president of the health system, dean of the Nicholas School and the dean of Trinity College. 

“Their specialty is identifying university administrators,” Schoenfeld said. “Isaacson, Miller will work with the search committee and trustees to establish a process, time-table and position description for the role of president." 

The position of president at Duke is one of the highest-paying in the country, with a yearly salary of over $1,000,000, according to the Triangle Business Journal. 

The search committee—comprised of 19 people and led by Jack Bovender, Trinity '67 and Graduate School '69—will have its first meeting later this month. Bovender is currently vice chair of the Board of Trustees. 

According to Isaacson, Miller's website, John Isaacson, John Muckle, Jane Gruenebaum and Keight Tucker Kennedy are helping the University with the search.

“When the search committee meets in mid-June, they will discuss the university’s goals and the qualifications they will seek in the next president," Schoenfeld said. "It will be a thorough process and it is just now getting started." 

Former Duke provost Peter Lange also noted that Isaacson, Miller is remarkably thorough. Lange is currently employed as the vice president of academic consulting at Isaacson, Miller, according to the firm's website. 

“[Isaacson, Miller helps] the Board and search committee by defining expectations, digging up candidates and following up on leads," Lange said. "The search firm is working for the committee, doing due diligence and getting the most intelligence they can, especially with the last few candidates. As the narrowing process occurs they’ll be getting as much information as they can about those final candidates. The process is like a funnel, it just gets more intense as you get down to the bottom."

The firm's website states that their approach to a search involves five steps—understanding the challenge, networking and screening, narrowing the field, selecting finalists and checking references and then making the final choice.

Lange explained that the process usually takes between six and eight months.

"When you get down to the last few [candidates], it’s all about making the job attractive to the right candidate based on what you were looking for at the beginning of the search and what you discovered during the search process itself," Lange said.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct Peter Lange's title. The article previously stated that Lange was part of the committee that selected President Brodhead in 2004. The Chronicle regrets the error. 

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