Board of Trustees chooses presidential search firm and committee chair


Taylor Hudak

Kent State University Board of Trustees Chair Ralph Della Ratta holds the “committee of the whole” meeting on Dec. 5, 2018. At right is President Beverly Warren. The Board named an executive search firm, Russell Reynolds Associates, to find Warren’s replacement when she retires July 1, 2019.

Laina Yost

Kent State officially began its search for President Beverly Warren’s replacement as it selected the chair of the search committee and a search firm at Wednesday’s Board of Trustees meeting. 

The Board chose global executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates, one of 15 applicants, to find and recruit candidates for the position. Kent State also worked with the firm at least three other times for dean searches in the College of Aeronautics and Engineering, the College of Education, Health and Human Services and the College of Architecture and Environmental Design.

Shawn Riley, a Kent State trustee since 2016 and current vice chair, will be the head of the committee tasked with finding Kent State’s next president. He is the president and chief executive officer of McDonald Hopkins LLC, a law firm in Cleveland.

On Oct. 23, Warren announced she will not renew her contract and will leave Kent State on July 1, 2019, after five years in the role.

Riley is an alumnus of Kent State and received a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1983. He will serve as a Board of Trustees member until 2025.

Riley said the members of the search committee will be announced next week. He emphasized what he characterized as the inclusivity of the committee.

“First, our objective is to find the best possible president to lead this university,” Riley said, “and second, to do so through an inclusive process that really emphasizes the shared governance that’s important to this university.”

Board chair Ralph Della Ratta echoed Riley.

“The Board of Trustees is committed to pursuing a search that yields the very best outcome — an accomplished, visionary and inspirational president to lead Kent State to its brightest future,” he said in a press release.

Eric Mansfield, the executive director of media relations, said it’s up to the search committee to decide how the search will be conducted and wouldn’t say if it will be open or closed.

Kent State’s last presidential search was met with criticism, including accusations the university did not follow public records law, and that no finalists were brought to campus.

“As always,” Della Ratta said, “the university will continue to abide by all applicable laws while seeking outstanding candidates to serve as our university’s next president.”

Russell Reynolds, based in New York City, conducted presidential searches for the University of Albany, University of Miami and Tulane University, among others. The firm also works for corporations and foundations, including the Barbara Bush Foundation. According to its website, the consultant network “reaches across 46 offices worldwide.”

Russell Reynolds’ higher education staff is composed of former “senior university officers, tenured professors and professional university staff, along with traditional business leaders,”according to its site.

Kent State will launch a website to collect comments and feedback about the presidential search. 

Laina Yost is the enterprise editor. Contact her at [email protected].