Temple moving fast to seek a new president Trustees say they want to find a replacement by May. An observer said they may have insiders in mind.

Posted: January 22, 2006

Temple University's leaders are wasting little time turning their attention from president David Adamany's retirement to the high-stakes search for a new leader.

They've given themselves until May to find a replacement, a short timeline compared with most presidential searches, which can take six months to a year. But search committee members indicated that they were not seeking to take the university in a dramatically different direction with the hire, and were quite open to selecting the new president from within.

Search committee chairman Daniel H. Polett said he wanted candidates who could "assume the position with ease and comfort and a lot of direction" and "continue doing what's been done so well."

Polett also shed new light on Adamany's retirement, which was announced Thursday but had been rumored for months.

"He served his term," Polett said of Adamany, 69. "It was clearly understood that president Adamany's time here was going to be roughly the term that he has served."

Just two weeks ago, Adamany told The Inquirer he wanted to lead Temple for "a few more years." In explaining his retirement last week, Adamany said he wanted to give the next trustee chairman the opportunity to help choose the university's president. Polett is a leading candidate to chair the board of trustees in the fall.

Adamany's six-year tenure at Temple was controversial almost from the start. He shook up the institution with plainspoken critiques of its academic standards and rigor. Although he was an unpopular figure in many campus quarters, Temple made significant progress under Adamany's watch. Undergraduate enrollment grew by a third and the professorial ranks with nearly 160 tenure-track hires. Average SAT scores and grades of incoming students surged.

Whoever replaces him will step into an extraordinarily challenging and complex job. Temple is the 28th-largest university in the nation, with seven campuses, 34,000 students, a medical system, and more than 2,500 full- and part-time faculty members.

The next president can expect to lead the university's largest-ever fund-raising drive; tangle with well-organized employee unions; manage an ambitious building program; fight for increased funding from Harrisburg, and confront a faculty wary of the president's office.

"These are very wearing jobs. I get tired just thinking of them," said Ronald G. Ehrenberg, director of the Higher Education Research Institute at Cornell University. "You have to say, 'I'm going to have no personal life and work for the university 24/7, every week of the year.' "

Despite that, Ehrenberg expects Temple will have no shortage of highly qualified candidates.

"Temple has already begun to make major strides, and if you're a person that gets a thrill out of building things, this might be a very attractive position," Ehrenberg said. "It can be a very, very exciting opportunity for the right person."

Search committee members said they were just beginning to think about the qualities they'd like to see in a new president.

Faculty Senate president Jane Evans, one of two professors on the 16-member search committee, put fund-raising prowess at the top of her list, closely followed by diplomatic skills.

"It would be really nice if the new president could come in and really work with the very diverse constituencies in Temple. Someone who is more open to the different ideas that people can bring to the table," she said.

Student government president Oscar Chow, also a committee member, said he would like to see a renewed focus on Temple's historic mission of serving underprivileged and first-generation college students.

"I would like to see us really going back to that vision, back to the fundamentals," Chow said, though he hastened to add that he admired what Adamany had done for the university.

All the committee members interviewed said they wanted to consider internal and external candidates.

"I don't know who the internal candidates will be, but having been around Temple for a long time now, certain names come to mind," Polett said.

He would not discuss who those candidates might be, but Temple law school dean Robert Reinstein was a finalist during the last presidential search, and is expected to be a serious candidate again. Temple insiders also expect that business school dean M. Moshe Porat and possibly Temple Health System chief executive Joseph W. "Chip" Marshall would be considered.

Ehrenberg, the Cornell expert, suspected that the Temple trustees felt they had "strong internal candidates," given the unusually short search timeline.

"It usually takes a month or two just to write the position description," he said.

The search committee begins its work tomorrow.

Contact staff writer Patrick Kerkstra at 610-313-8111 or pkerkstra@phillynews.com.

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