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Pandemic Slows the Search for WIU's Next President

Rich Egger

Western Illinois University Board of Trustees Chairperson Polly Radosh said leaders of the school's presidential search committee made progress the first two-and-a-half months of the year. But in mid-March, the state issued stay-at-home orders and bans on large gatherings in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

"So the whole search is sort of in a holding pattern temporarily," Radosh told fellow board members during this week’s special meeting.

Radosh, BoT member Patrick Twomey, and Faculty Senate Chairperson Christopher Pynes are leading the search process.

Radosh said much of the rest of the committee has also been chosen.

She said they received proposals from three search firms and planned to hear from those companies during the BoT’s meeting late March.  But that meeting was canceled due to the ban on gatherings.

Western is looking for a new president because Dr. Jack Thomas stepped down at the end of June, 2019 after eight years at the helm.

The BoT decided in December to proceed with a national search after deadlocking on a motion to name Dr. Martin Abraham president. Abraham was hired to serve as provost starting July 1. But instead Abraham became acting president when he arrived in town, and in October he was named interim president.

Radosh said BoT members have received emails from a number of people who want them to reconsider the motion.

“Martin would prefer that we not do it right now. We don’t want to do it under emergency circumstances such as these (the pandemic),” Radosh said.

She said the BoT could eventually reconsider the motion but she doesn’t know when, adding “We’ll just have to wait and see how things go.”