I appreciate your invitation to make suggestions to the search committee facing the formidable task of selecting a president to succeed Shirley Tilghman, who has provided extraordinarily versatile, able, and effective leadership. As a retired educator (chiefly an English teacher on the secondary level, but also an administrator, including head of school), I have several suggestions:
- Review the search process that led to President Tilghman’s appointment and identify procedures that can be profitably adopted by the current search committee.
- Acknowledge the impossibility of finding a candidate who offers fully developed expertise in all of the president’s areas of responsibility. Then identify areas that are well covered by members of the administration likely to remain at Princeton. Identify areas of responsibility that require strong presidential leadership, either because others in the administration cannot provide that leadership or because the board of trustees has identified the areas as critically important for development in the next five years.
- Questions for the candidate. If an inside candidate: What are the creative tensions that you are prepared to help Princeton maintain, how would you maintain them, and why are they important? If an outside candidate: What tensions have you experienced or observed in your present institution or organization that are or could be creative tensions that ought to be maintained? How have you managed and related to those tensions?
What sources of personal renewal will you cultivate while maintaining an excessively demanding schedule? (Not having a good answer should not rule a candidate out, but it should lead to assistance to help the candidate develop a good answer — and so serve Princeton well for an extended period, rather than burning out in a short time.)