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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Searching for Truth

Well, it is over. The Trinity Presidential Search -- that was effectively launched last January when President John Brazil announced his retirement -- has concluded, nearly nine months later. As a member of the search committee, these are some of my own observations, in no particular order:

1. The first thing that comes to mind is the dedication of the Trustees on the search committee. They made multiple trips at their own expense to San Antonio and other locations. The amount of time and money they put into the process was proof positive of their commitment to Trinity. I think any Trustee here would have done the same.
2. In addition, the Trustees were pretty cool. They made jokes, got jokes, knew a lot about a lot, were very professional, and were really open to learning more about the day-to-day operations of the University.
3. As candidates learned more about the University they expressed that they previously had no idea what we had to offer and that they thought we had something special going here. Maybe they were blowing smoke, but they really seemed to be excited about us.
4. We met with a lot of quality people. They were professional, candid, showed great class, and were exciting. There were some characters too.
5. At any level, there is never a perfect candidate. If we could have "cut and pasted" together the perfect one, as a Trustee noted to me last week, that would be ideal. But we can't. I went into the search thinking that we would see people that brought it all. It's not like that. Think about electing a President in the U.S. You can't please everyone. But if you could cut and paste: Maybe a little bit of McCain, with a tad bit of Romney, and a big dose of Obama, with a pinch of Palin... Okay, I took it too far, but you get it. No one person is perfect. We settled for a human being.
6. The job of University President is HUGE. So, we were looking for a person with great integrity and character; an exciting public persona; an understanding of the economy and balance sheets; a fund-raiser; someone who would spend more time off campus raising money; someone who would spend more time on campus meeting students; a scholar; an administrator; a leader; a manager; someone who would build our national reputation; someone who would build our local reputation; someone with an international background; someone who understands the importance of globalization and service; and someone who is fun at cocktail parties. Got it Dr. Ahlburg?
7. As with the search for the Academic VP several years ago, there is no way to learn more about the faculty than to serve on a committee like this. I have been fortunate to have that experience both times. It is easy to not fully appreciate what you don't know. Additionally, faculty members on the search committee felt a tremendous responsibility to produce a candidate with intellectual stature that could be respected by their peers. Irespect their pride.
8. I never want to be around when people search for my replacement. Ask John Brazil and Becky Spurlock. To see what people don't like about me I would simply see what they were looking for in the next Dean. Ouch.
9. People talk when they aren't supposed to. Keeping secrets is hard. I am glad this is over.
10. The staff just wants to be loved too. (After the students, and the faculty, and the Trustees, and the Alumni, of course.) The staff contributes a lot to the campus and I am proud of my colleagues.

In all, this was an incredible opportunity to serve the institution. I feel a little selfish to have had the chance that others haven't. I wish everyone could have the same chance, but we'd never get anything done. What we do have is a new President and that always brings exciting opportunities for change and progress.


Susie Gonzalez said...

Thanks for your candor, Dean Tuttle. It was nice...for a brief have an insider's feel of what the process was like

Barbara said...


Congrats on an expert commentary--a pinch of John Cleese, a smattering of Hendrik Hertzberg, and a good dose of Molly Ivins.

You've got all the ingredients for the right stuff.

Thanks for representing Trinity and the staff.

Barbara said...

Last comment was by Barbara Ras.

I guess Google censored me.

Digital Subway said...

The Search Committee actually did more than a fabulous job of finding a competent, new University President.

And, I'm sure Dr. Ahlburg got your point.

Becky Spurlock said...

Thanks for the shout out. It wasn't so bad for me, much harder for Brazil. You wouldn't survive it though.

Anonymous said...

Dear David (I can call you that right? Being colleagues and all),

After reading this, I can't help but think that "President" Tuttle has a nice ring to it. I'm excited, like everyone, of what Dr. Ahlburg will bring to the table, and in no way am trying to disrespect him in any manner. However, thinking of this column that you've just written and taking into consideration Dr. Ahlburg won't be here forever, I was wondering why not run for President in 2018? When you were describing the characteristics that you and the search committee were looking for in the new president, I started wondering why you were describing yourself...except for the fun at a cocktail party qualification ;)

— KA

David Tuttle said...

I assume you are kidding, but I have the perfect job for me, thanks. All it takes to be Dean is some time and to care about students. THAT I can do.