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July 11, 2013

Replacing Nordenberg will be difficult

Finding a successor to a longtime University leader — particularly one so widely respected and undeniably effective as Mark A. Nordenberg in building a team that has raised the profile of the University of Pittsburgh — undoubtedly is a monumental task for Pitt’s Board of Trustees.

“We’ve been awfully fortunate to have had this man as our chancellor for 18 years now,” board chairperson Stephen R. Tritch said at the June 28 trustees meeting where the chancellor’s 2014 resignation was announced.

“One of the first tasks of the search committee is going to be, in fact, to look through in detail and look at what qualities do we want in a successor to Mark, given that this is 2013 now and not 1995,” he said following the meeting. “A lot of the qualities that Mark brings are certainly current and a number of those will be the basis of what we will be looking for. …We couldn’t do a whole lot better.”

While some change is in order, Tritch said he envisions no major departure from the University’s current course.

“Our direction has been up, so I think our direction continues to need to be up. What that entails may be different and probably is a bit different. And I think it’s been different for Mark as he’s gone through his 18 years as chancellor. So things do change. We are aware and need to continue to be aware as we move forward what those changes will be. … A lot of the basic qualities Mark brought to this job were fantastic then and they’re fantastic now. But we will be looking at where we do think the world heads and how does that affect the University, and what do we need in our next chancellor.”

Tritch said the board seeks to maintain the University’s current approach in assuming leadership positions in local and statewide issues and in continuing partnerships such as those that have been built with Carnegie Mellon University and UPMC.

“We will look nationwide in the search and we will include the appropriate internal candidates. So we’ll be looking very broadly at trying to get the best people here and make sure they have an interest and make sure they fit with where we think the University needs to go,” Tritch said.

Nordenberg commented, “I think today one of the things that would be attractive to candidates is the momentum that exists at the University. And in some ways it may be easier for the committee to sense whether there is a fit that will keep the institution moving in the right direction. And I use that term in a broad sense because at Pitt everybody’s going to bring in a different set of strengths and a different set of high-priority interests.”

The chancellor continued: “I wouldn’t be presumptuous enough to suggest that I know what the qualities should be in a successor. But maybe I should say something about the qualities that have been required during my term of service. Among them is a high capacity for hard work. These are jobs that can be never-ending. There always is something more that you would like to do if you are appropriately ambitious for the institution. Maybe that would have been less of a problem if I was smarter or quicker, but I found that there was no substitute, really, for logging a lot of hours.

“I really do think you need to believe in the mission. … Unless you feel good about contributing to a process that puts others in a better position, then you’re not going to take much satisfaction from this position,” the chancellor said.

“And I think you have to like and respect people, because it is a job where you’re dealing with a wide range of constituent groups, and they all have a legitimate claim on your time. They all have a valid interest in the University and its work. And so if you don’t enjoy interacting with other people on issues that you both think are important, then the job will probably not be very satisfying.”

Nordenberg added, “If you think you can map out a plan for your life and then march forward, you’ll be fooled before very long because there always are new things that emerge.”


Stephen R. Tritch, board chairperson, and G. Reynolds Clark, chief of staff and vice chancellor for external relations, with Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg at a press conference following the June 28 Board of Trustees meeting.

Stephen R. Tritch, board chairperson, and G. Reynolds Clark, chief of staff and vice chancellor for external relations, with Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg at a press conference following the June 28 Board of Trustees meeting.

University Senate President Michael Spring told the University Times that the University Senate is pleased to be included in the board’s search for a new chancellor.

“As to faculty preference for internal or external candidates, I don’t think any of us would have necessarily predicted the greatness of two of our last three chancellors — a chair of political science from the Air Force Academy who led us out of very severe financial times or a young dean at our own law school who has accomplished too many great things to focus on just one or two,” Spring said.

When Chancellor Wesley W. Posvar arrived in 1967 from the Air Force, Spring said, “one of his first actions was to move that the leadership of the University Senate be changed from the chancellor to a faculty member elected by the faculty. Chancellor Nordenberg has managed an almost equally long tenure with a belief in cordiality and shared governance in times of extraordinary challenges and stresses. I believe our next chancellor should be selected on the basis of sound academic management skills on top of a strong record of accomplishment as a faculty member.

“I would hope that the qualities sought would include a commitment to high quality research and instruction, patience in building strong personal relationships with state and local government, a continued effort to engage our alumni and friends, a vision for the future that sees our times as ones of great change and opportunity and last but far from least, an unwavering commitment to shared governance,” Spring said.

The search committee

With the aim to have a search committee in place by early September, the Board of Trustees is moving quickly in seeking representatives from across the University community.

As board chairperson, Tritch will appoint the committee members. At the June 28 board meeting, he said, “Though the Board of Trustees ultimately is responsible to elect a new chancellor, we look forward to working with representatives of other important groups — including alumni, faculty, staff and students — as we move forward with the process of attracting and assessing candidates.”

He announced that Board of Trustees Vice Chair Eva Blum will chair the search committee and provost emeritus James V. Maher will be the committee vice chair.

The transition committee

In addition, a transition committee, headed by board vice chair Morgan O’Brien with G. Reynolds Clark, Pitt’s chief of staff and vice chancellor for external relations as co-chair, will ensure that Chancellor Nordenberg’s last year in office “is as productive as it possibly can be and that his successor has the support necessary to get off to a strong start,” Tritch said.

Clark noted the unique position the University is expected to be in: “We’re going to have the previous chancellor a year from now still here in Pittsburgh, still here on campus, still engaged in the community. And we’re going to have a new chancellor on board. I think that gives us even more desirability and prestige as a University.”

In the meantime, “There will not be a lame duck chancellor here at the University. Those of us in the senior administrative team will be as committed to helping him conclude his final year as chancellor,” Clark said.

“None of us — I can speak for every member of the senior staff — would do anything to impinge on the successes we’ve achieved in the past 18 years — and hopefully make the 19th year the best year the chancellor had.”

Clark told the University Times earlier this week that the members of the transition committee had yet to be selected and that no timetable had been set for the committee’s first meeting.

He did not elaborate on which segments of the University community would be represented on the committee or detail more specific goals for aiding the transition.

Search committee leaders

Blum, executive vice president and director of community affairs for PNC Bank and chairwoman and president of the PNC Foundation, earned undergraduate and law degrees at Pitt.

She is a past president of Pitt’s alumni association and co-chaired the University’s $2 billion capital campaign. She also chairs the board of visitors of the Graduate School of Public Health. As a trustee, Blum has chaired the board’s student affairs committee and has served on the executive, compensation, institutional advancement and nominating committees.

Maher, a faculty member in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, will be an important source of academic perspectives on the committee, Tritch said.

Board secretary B. Jean Ferketish, who served as secretary for the most recent provost search, will be the chancellor search committee’s secretary.

“Other members of the search committee will be appointed in the weeks ahead,” Tritch said. “It is my hope that the committee as a whole can be constituted early in the new academic year so that the group can formally be charged and press forward with its important work.”

Faculty representation

Senate President Spring told the University Times that Tritch has asked for five faculty nominees, in accord with guidelines revised last year by the Senate. (See Feb. 23, 2012, University Times.)

With regard to a search for chancellor, the Senate guidelines state: “Although the search process for chancellor is managed by the Board of Trustees, faculty, staff and student representation on the chancellor search committee should be selected responsive to the requests of the trustees and in the spirit of this policy.

“The faculty representation should be well-balanced among the various faculty constituencies and should include at least one faculty member from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, one from the professional schools of the Provost area, one from the School of Medicine, one from the other schools of the Health Sciences area and one from the regional campuses.”

Spring said the process for recommending faculty for seats on the search committee would be among the topics to be discussed at a Senate executive committee meeting set for July 10, after the University Times press time.

Faculty members who are interested in being considered for the search committee should contact the University Senate office, Spring said.

Staff Association Council President J.P. Matychak on Monday said he had received no information regarding the search committee.

Trustees have leeway in appointing members to a chancellor search committee and John Fedele, senior associate director of News provided no further details on the committee’s composition in response to University Times questions, saying that the process of structuring the membership of the committee and setting its operational timetable is just beginning.

The committee that conducted the 1995 chancellor search was made up of nine trustees, seven faculty members, three deans, one Staff Association Council representative, one UPMC representative and three students. (See June 22, 1995, University Times.)

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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