Miami University’s 21st president, David Hodge, announced his retirement effective June 30, 2016, prompting the university community to reflect on his tenure and consider his replacement.
Hodge made his announcement today at the Board of Trustees meeting, but he said he has been planning it since early last fall. When he first arrived at Miami, he didn’t expect to be here longer than seven years — which, according to the American Council on Education, is the average length of a college presidency. But, he said, the extra time has allowed him to further some of his goals.
“When we got further along and I really loved the things we were doing, I felt I wanted to push that,” he said. “We just love Miami. We love what we’re doing here; we love the momentum that has been building.”
The Board of Trustees now has a year to find a replacement, something Hodge said he was mindful of when announcing his retirement. He said he is confident Miami will have no trouble filling the vacancy.
“We’ve got a good amount of time, the board has known about this for some time so they’ve had a chance to think about it themselves to prepare for it,” Hodge said. “Miami has a really great reputation right now and people who come here are going to be awfully impressed with our faculty and staff and students, so I’m pretty optimistic about things going very, very well for Miami.”
ASG president Cole Tyman said the year will give the board enough time to be deliberate in its action.
“[Hodge] has made the announcement at a good time, allowing administration a year to be thoughtful in its continuity plan, and giving it time to reflect on all Miami has achieved and the improvements still needed,” Tyman said.
Stephen Trachtenberg, president emeritus of George Washington University , said the Miami presidency is “a plum job.” Trachtenberg is the author of numerous books and reports on university presidencies.
“This, I think, would be an attractive presidency,” he said. “Because it’s an outstanding university, David leaves it in good shape, so there aren’t burning, terrible issues that need to be resolved.”
However, Miami’s presidents have been largely homogenous in race and gender. Of the 21 presidents, all but one was a white male and Anne Hopkins, the lone woman, served just seven months in an interim role.
This is something of which, Trachtenberg said, Miami may be mindful.
“Miami doesn’t want to say that they’re going to have a biased search,” he said. “But you could imagine that with that in the back of their minds, while they are doing the search, they will be rigorous in affirmative action and they’ll be sympathetic to candidates who come from those heretofore neglected groups.”
However, Trachtenberg said the university will ultimately pick the best candidate for the job.
“The list of people they haven’t had goes on, my guess is they’re going to embrace talent in whatever form it comes,” he said.
Trachtenberg said there is a laundry list of things universities look for in presidents. And, while it largely depends on the specific institution, a few traits remain constant.
“A commitment to scholarship, a commitment to teaching, a willingness to get their hands dirty solving the problems of the institutions,” he said. “You need to be an educator, you need to be socially conscious, you need to be able to handle political issues, you need to be able to handle public relations.”
Miami’s prestige could entice provosts or deans from Ivy League schools, Trachtenberg said, but there are also possibilities beyond university administrators.
“You’re seeing people with not only different skillsets, but different backgrounds,” he said. “There are former senators, former governors, lawyers, businesspeople, generals.”
Finding a university president is no small task and could take a long time. However, Hodge said he believes Miami will fill his position before June 2016 and, if they don’t, he said he will stay on board as president for as long as it takes.
“I think that would be better than having an interim, if it got to that,” he said. “But I really think that’s a remote possibility.”
Miami may find itself with many suitors, however, Trachtenberg cautioned not everyone will be cut out for the position.
“There are a lot of people who are happy to step forward, but not all of them actually have all those tricks in their bag,” he said.