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2019 0417 incubator

Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert, left, introduces Brad Smith at a kick-off ceremony for the university’s Brad D. Smith Business Incubator in this April 2019 file photo at the university’s Visual Arts Center in downtown Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — The five final candidates to be the 38th president of Marshall University are all accomplished leaders, but one on the list stands out for his lack of higher education experience: Brad Smith.

The Kenova native is the only candidate who attended Marshall and he is the only business CEO among a field of higher education officials serving as provosts, vice presidents and chancellors. He’s also the only one to make significant donations to Marshall, including to the College of Business, as well as to West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice with he and his wife donating $10,000 to the governor’s inaugural committee.

There are no ethical complications, however, when it comes to Marshall potentially hiring Smith, according to the West Virginia Ethics Commission.

Ethics Commission Executive Director Kim Weber said in an email, based on two previous advisories, a donor may be hired to a state university. Favoritism cannot be a factor in the hiring, however.

A university employee may also donate to the university, most likely possible as long as the university is the primary beneficiary.

According to the Presidential Profile created by Marshall’s Presidential Search Committee, the ideal presidential candidate has 11 qualities:

  • A readiness to act as a primary spokesperson for Marshall, who can effectively represent the university and make the case for resources with outside interests and allies, including prospective donors, state policymakers, corporate partners, alumni, foundations, and other stakeholders.
  • The ability to appreciate and maintain key elements of Marshall’s history, traditions, and culture at a time of immense change in higher education, while embracing the region it serves, and moving the university forward to new levels of success and collaboration with institutional stakeholders.

A demonstrated ability to manage the fiscal resources of a complex organization with a commitment to maintain and enhance the fiscal soundness of the university.

  • An authentic, engaging, high-integrity individual with the ability to work effectively with all members of the university community to foster growth and development, while building positive relationships with a wide range of local and regional partners to advance Marshall.
  • The ability to work effectively with a governing board to determine policy and direction and to provide a voice for that direction to the university community, the region, and beyond.
  • A readiness to operate transparently in a shared governance environment and an understanding of the roles and privileges of faculty and staff in furthering the accomplishments and reach of the university.
  • A demonstrated commitment to equity and diversity and to creating a welcoming, inclusive environment.
  • A commitment to the relationship among high-quality teaching, scholarship, and service in strengthening academic excellence.
  • A commitment to and high capacity for fundraising and development.
  • A clear track record of innovation and entrepreneurial accomplishments, as well an understanding of how to leverage data and technology to achieve goals.
  • An understanding of and commitment to the role of athletics within the university community.

“How we adapt going forward, it’s going to be critical,” said board chair Patrick Farrell during a July meeting with the Herald-Dispatch editorial board, at the start of the presidential search. “I don’t know how we will. But that next leader needs to figure out (the changing higher education landscape) pretty darn quick. Right? And it’s a challenge. But I think as goes Marshall, as goes Huntington. Something that I’ve said repeatedly, because I believe it’s true. And if we don’t have a good leader, or a strong leader that understands, you know, where the levers are to pull, we’re in a lot of trouble.”

The next month will consist of interviews with the five candidates ending with a decision during the Oct. 28 board meeting.

“When I took over, I told the board that we do three things: we we hire a president, we set policy, we pass a budget,” Farrell said. “That’s what we do. And that’s what we’re going to continue to do. And so when you get into those three things, you have to have some basis of how you make those decisions, and you hire (a) president, what policies do you set? What what are the priorities of the budget? And our fiduciary duties, right? And beyond that go to the creed. Right? And so those ethics have to mean something, to say that we’re judicious community, a safe community or an ethical community.

“You have to not just see the words, you actually have to believe them and act that out every day.”

Taylor Stuck is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch, covering state government, health and higher education. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

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