The University of South Alabama’s Presidential Search Committee announced three finalists in its nationwide search for a successor to Gordon Moulton at the helm of the 15,000-student school and its related hospital system. After the candidates have completed facility tours and open forums with students, staff and administrators, the Board of Trustees hope to make an offer to one of them by the end of October. The three finalists are:
• Dr. Sheri Noren Everts – The Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Illinois State University. As chief academic officer at ISU, Everts is responsible for the administration, coordination and development of all academic activities, academic support activities, recruitment and enrollment of students. Everts received her bachelor’s degree in English and secondary education, master’s degree in literacy education and English and Ph.D. in administration, curriculum and instruction from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
• Dr. Jerome A. Gilbert – The Provost and Executive Vice President at Mississippi State University. As provost, Gilbert is the second-ranking administrative officer at MSU and serves as chief academic officer. As executive vice president, he also assists the president with the overall management of the university and serves as institutional liaison on the president’s absence. Gilbert received his bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from MSU and a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Duke University.
• Dr. Arthur J. Ross III – The Dean of the School of Medicine at West Virginia University. As dean, Ross is responsible for three campuses in separate areas of the state, offering clinical care and educational programs in medicine, physical and occupational therapy, medical technology, exercise physiology, continuing medical education and others. Ross received his bachelor’s degree from Trinity College, a medical degree from Case Western Reserve University, a master’s degree in administrative medicine from the UNiversity of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
The search committee, with the help of consulting firm William R. Funk and Associates, has been vetting candidates since May. Committee Chair Kenneth Simon, who is also a university trustee, said a total of five candidates were interviewed before the final three were selected.
“This process performed beyond any of our expectations,” he said. “In the beginning, I think there may have been some apprehension of dissension or disaffection or concern over whether it would result in mediocre candidates but I believe we found the three most qualified candidates in the country and one of them will be our next president.”
Generally speaking about the candidates individually, Simon said Everts has an “amazing educational background” and is able to “connect to students in unique ways.” Everts was the first in her family to pursue a higher education, he said, and her mother did not attend school beyond the eighth grade.
Simon characterized Gilbert as having an “incredible background as a scientist and engineer” and credits his career as a faculty member, administrator and researcher at one of the “leading medical institutions in the country.” At West Virginia University, Dr. Ross has established himself as “a real leader on a university-wide basis,” Simon said.
“With these three candidates, there was a profound consensus on the search committee that they should be presented to the University and community as potential leaders,” he said.
Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Steven Furr said he was also pleased with the results and looked forward to coordinating the final stages of the selection process in the weeks ahead.
“Everyone we reviewed started out as equals and these three rose to the top,” he said. “This has been a very arduous and thorough process and we can assure when it’s over we’ll make an offer to the candidate who’ll serve in the best interest of the University.”
Dr. Doug Marshall represented the Faculty Senate on the search committee. Before the process began, he said if any candidate did not meet the expectations or qualifications of the faculty, the Senate could vote “no confidence.” But after the finalists were announced, he indicated that he did not think it would be an issue if any of the three candidates were eventually selected.
“There are all different and have different strengths but as Faculty Senate representative I can say I have full confidence in their abilities and individual visions for the university,” Marshall said.
He compared the next several weeks to a date with the candidates and said he would be interested to see how well the university and community receives the candidates during their tours.
“It’ll be like we’re getting to know them and they’re are getting to know us and in the end hopefully we’ll have found the perfect match.”
Public forums with the candidates are scheduled for Sept. 19 for Gilbert, Sept. 26 for Everts and Oct. 3 for Ross. Faculty, staff, students, alumni and the public will be invited to meet the candidates on those dates at the Mitchell Center at 4:00 p.m. Opportunities will be given for feedback to the Board of Trustees.