Presidential search firm receives suggestions, nominations for Kent State’s next president


A group walks along the Kent State esplanade toward downtown. 

Laina Yost

John Mulaney, mothers, provosts, presidents, chancellors. The list of possible candidates for Kent State’s next president spread far and wide.

Emails obtained by KentWired through a public records request showed the Kent community’s nominations and rejections of potential candidates.

The suggestions for the university’s 13th president varied. One student nominated comedian John Mulaney for the job, saying he was “funny,” “is young so (he) knows the youth culture” and that he “said he’d do it.” Mulaney performed at the M.A.C. Center in November 2018.

Provost Todd Diacon received the most nominations with four. In the suggestions, Diacon was called the best fit to complete President Beverly Warren’s plans and trajectory for the university, including the 10-year Facilities Master Plan and her “Students First” motto. Associate Provost Melody Tankersly, who reports to Diacon, also received a nomination.

Several former Kent State employees received nominations from community members, including Virginia Horvath, the current president at The State University of New York at Fredonia. An adjunct professor and a staff member both received a nomination from their sons.

Chic Canfora, a May 4, 1970, survivor, was suggested as the university’s next president twice; David Dees, the dean of Kent State Columbiana, received three nominations; and Brad Bielski, the dean of Kent State Tuscarawas, received one.

Russell Reynolds Associates, the search firm hired to find Warren’s replacement, instructed all potential candidates it solicited to only respond if they were not interested. If someone was interested, they were asked to call the search firm instead. The firm noted that any emailed responses could be subject to open records law.

Russell Reynolds reached out to potential candidates through mailed letters, and names in the emailed rejections were redacted, although their titles were not. Most were provosts, presidents, deans and chancellors, showing Kent State is looking for some experience in its next president.

Potential candidates who rejected the position gave reasons that varied from contentment at their current job, upcoming retirement or an unwillingness to move to the Kent area.

KentWired requested all candidates’ resumes interviewed by the presidential search committee and Russell Reynolds. It is still waiting on responses to both.

The Board of Trustees held an executive session on Monday, which is not open to the public, at the College of Podiatric Medicine in Independence, Ohio. In the meeting, the trustees said they would discuss “considering the appointment, employment and compensation of a public employee or official” and “preparing for, conducting, or reviewing negotiations or bargaining sessions with public employees concerning their compensation or other terms and conditions of their employment.”

The next Board meeting will be on May 9.

Laina Yost is a senior reporter. Contact her at [email protected].