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'Historic change in leadership' at state's colleges and universities

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 26. 2013 10:51PM
Philip Hanlon of Dartmouth is one of seven new chief executives of colleges and universities in New Hampshire who will be in charge as the new academic year begins. (file photo)

CONCORD — Tom Horgan has been with the New Hampshire College and University Council for 20 years, and he's never seen anything like this. Seven of the group's 22 members will welcome new chief executives this fall, in a time of historic turnover for higher education.

"These changes are taking place at every level of our higher education community," he said, "with new leadership arriving at New Hampshire's public and private, two-year, four-year, graduate and Ivy League levels."

As students return to campus, they will be greeted by new presidents at Dartmouth College, Saint Anselm College, River Valley Community College in Claremont, Keene State College, Antioch University New England and Granite State College. A new chancellor takes over for the University System of New Hampshire.

"Usually we see one or two new college presidents a year," said Horgan, president and CEO of the consortium that coordinates collaborative efforts among the state's post-secondary institutions. "I do think it is a historic change in leadership."

It's a change that reflects a national trend, as an aging population of college and university presidents drawn largely from academic ranks is being replaced by a new breed with backgrounds in fundraising, student services and the private sector.

Earlier this month, Horgan presented his research on the topic in a document titled, "The Pipeline Challenge in Identifying, Recruiting and Supporting New Presidents at Small, Private Colleges and Universities."

"There's been a real shift," he said. "Historically, the chief academic officer coming out of the faculty was the traditional pathway to the presidency. Increasingly, we are seeing that is not the pathway for presidents today. We're seeing the emergence of nontraditional college presidents, people who are coming out of development or other areas, or coming from outside of higher education."

Changing landscape

Financial pressures, declining enrollments and demographic changes are creating tough, new expectations for senior management in academia, even as the incumbents grow older.

"Nationally, we know that college presidents are older than they have ever been historically," Horgan said. The average age of a college president is now 61, compared to early-50s just 10 years ago.

"There's a lot of research and talk about the change coming in higher education leadership over the next five years, so we might be slightly ahead of the national curve in New Hampshire," he said.

One of the institutions making the biggest break with tradition is St. Anselm College, which will for the first time since its founding in 1889 by the Benedictine monks have a lay person as president. Steven DiSalvo came through the fundraising pipeline, having worked in the development offices of Fordham University, and was the executive director of the Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation. He founded the Hopewell Group, an advisory group for wealth management, before becoming president of Marian University in Wisconsin.

Alicia Harvey-Smith, taking over at River Valley Community College, brings a strong background in student services. She was vice president of student affairs at Baltimore City Community College, where she led initiatives in student recruitment and retention.

Stephen Jones arrives at Antioch University in Keene with a deep background in community outreach. He was vice chancellor for extension and engagement at North Carolina State University and director of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Auburn University before becoming president of Urbana University in Ohio.

At Granite State College, with 10 campuses statewide, Kathleen Mullin took over as chief administrative officer in July. Her background is primarily in administration, with a focus on innovation. Mullin was chief of staff at GSC, and came there with more than 33 years of experience in the Boston public schools as a teacher, director and special assistant to the superintendent for high school reform.

More traditional route

The three largest institutions making a leadership change took a more traditional route, Horgan said.

Anne E. Huot takes over as president of Keene State College after serving as provost and vice president for academic affairs at The College at Brockport, State University of New York.

Philip J. Hanlon became the 18th president of Dartmouth College in June, and is the 10th Dartmouth alumnus to serve as president. Hanlon, a renowned mathematician, had been a University of Michigan faculty member and served there most recently as the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

Todd Leach, the new chancellor of the University System of New Hampshire, served as president of Granite State College for the last three years, and prior to that was associate dean and chief academic officer at the College of Professional Studies at Northeastern University.

"The nature of the job has changed dramatically in recent years," Horgan said. "It's much more like being a CEO of a business or corporation than in the past. There certainly continues to be a place for traditional academics to move up, but at the same time we are seeing a shift toward people who understand the finances of the college or university, understand the importance of enrollment management, and who are successful fundraisers."

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