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Posted on Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 5:55 a.m.

University of Michigan's next president will need rare combination of qualities

By Staff

The University of Michigan faces a major challenge in the coming months as it searches for a new president to replace Mary Sue Coleman, who will retire next year.


University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman addresses the graduating class of 2013 in May.

Courtney Sacco |

Although the ultimate decision will rest with the Board of Regents, the exact form the search will take has yet to be announced. Focus groups are likely; an advisory committee, which was used when Coleman was hired in 2002, may be used again. Last month, the university's faculty members publicly (and understandably) stated they want a voice in the process.

Whatever form the search takes, it's clear that certain qualities will be important to find in the person the university eventually hires. Among them:

• An ability to envision the needs of the future. In many respects, an institution as large as U-M can't always move quickly, both physically and organizationally. Adjusting educational offerings to the dynamic demands of the modern job market, for example, must be foreseen and planned long before they can be implemented.

• An innovative stance toward the evolution of higher education, particularly in regards to the continued growth of online education.

• An awareness of the financial pressures the university has faced and will face—and at the same time, a real understanding of the financial pressures facing current and prospective students. This means fundraising skills, as well as dedication to limit increases in student costs.

• A true appreciation of the important role the university plays in Michigan, the nation, and even the world. This includes a willingness to speak out and be a visible leader on higher-education issues.

It sounds like a lot to ask, and it is. But it's heartening to recall that the last time the university faced this position, it did succeed in finding a candidate with most if not all of these qualities.

That would be Coleman, of course. While we wouldn't call her a perfect president, she proved to be a solid choice and effective leader as U-M's 13th president. And now, as U-M looks to find her successor, she can serve as an excellent model for the ideal candidate.



Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 12:52 p.m.

Would be nice if next president was more interested in the kids education than social engineering. Keeping education affordable should be a major driver, not something they just talk about while building and building and building.


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 12:11 p.m.

She'll be hard to replace, young, smart and cute (you have to see it from my perspective... I'm older!)


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 11:35 a.m.

How about ex-Penn State President Graham Spanier! He would be in line with the great tradition of covering up sex scandals that President Coleman has been so good at.


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 5 a.m.

I hear that E. Gordon might be available.

Lyn Barron

Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 4:38 a.m.

Tim, yes, I am venting. One nurse can effect an outcome. The new President should be interested in the employees.

Tim Hornton

Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 11:39 a.m.

I'm sure a hospital security guard could influence a medical doctors medical decisions too on his/her patients and the janitor might be invited to make suggestons for an 8 hour surgery. Chances are not going to happen and chances are UM isn't going to have a nurse Influence their next president. The president must have strong degrees that actually won't be used at all for the job and have great skills at keeping wealthy alum donating money. Your suggestions are for your supervisor, Human Resources, and your Union.

Tim Hornton

Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 3:18 a.m.

For around $700000 a year something tells me they will find the right fundraiser... I mean president for the job. Go Blue!


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 7:29 p.m.

Overall, I think Mary Sue did a very good job as president. Unlike some presidents around the Big Ten, she never said anything stupid or offensive to tarnish the reputation of the school. I agree with the article in that the next president will need to be able to deal with a different era financially. Instead of the unbridled building spree the school has gone on in the last 15 years, they will need to be much more conscious of costs and budgets. As long as U-M offers a premium degree to students, the school should do OK. But, the numbers of students who will be able to afford a top-notch education will be falling so U-M must be well-positioned to compete for qualified applicants that can AFFORD the price they charge.


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 11:31 a.m.

"she never said anything stupid or offensive to tarnish the reputation of the school." You obviously have forgotten about the whole child porn scandal and her "internal investigation report", which was so bad that theRegents took that authority to investigate and hold people responsible away from her. Her report even tried to blame the police for not returning a voice mail message to security even though that had been proven false months before the report was issued. It may be bad for a president to say something insensitive in a spontaneous remark but I am much more concerned about dishonesty and cover ups that are carefully considered.

Tim Hornton

Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 3:14 a.m.

I saw many people with that "premium" degree get no where in their careers because of it. Once your inside the interview for the job, where you got the degree doesn't mean a whole lot. It will give you bragging rights for football games though even though you probably never dropped one ounce of sweat on the practice field or played in a game. Most UM grads probably did drop a lot of vodka before games though.

Lyn Barron

Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 7:12 p.m.

btw, I do not blame Mary Sue Coleman for any corruption at Umich. I know she did not directly promote/give raises and stipends to employees for any 'wrong doings.' She may not even know how (I think) some nurses are given jobs at the State Prison instead of perhaps being fired. She may not know that Umch HR called my State Farm agent to tell them things when they, in my opinion, should not have- especially when I was trying to heal from an auto accident. sheri barron on vimeo. I could go on but I am risking being booted off right now.

Lyn Barron

Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 4:57 p.m.

I would like the new President to not be afraid to get rid of people that break the law. I also would like a mediation center, partially made up of Ann Arbor citizens- whom are concerned about the American Justice system. This center should be available to Patients, Employees, and Students. This might help get rid of the people that get raises and promotions for doing terrible things. Now in my opinion, it seems like the University is getting away with hurting people. In my opinion, doctors being kept on even after they have proven they are not the 'best' just to try and save a reputation is criminal. In my opinion, nurses that are dismissed then get promotions and raises in better jobs at the Umich is criminal. In my opinion nurses that get State Prison jobs so they can add on the Umich years for retirement when perhaps they should have been fired is criminal. In my opinion, letting a Umich staff person call an employee's car insurance company and say defaming things (while the employee is trying to recover) is criminal- see sheri barron RN,BSN I hope our new President will consider my suggestions.

Tim Hornton

Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 3:03 a.m.

What are you talking about? Like the UM president cares about a UM healthsystem nurse's minor personal issues. For that matter like anyone at UM really cares. And no the new president will not consider your "venting" suggestions.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 6:44 p.m.

It seems harsh to blame the President personally for things the University's legal counsel should handle. In my experience, people should report crimes directly to the City Police, the political red tape between the Medical System and the Department of Public Safety is impassable and impossible. I couldn't open your link, btw.


Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 4:33 p.m.

Smart money would bet on Theresa Sullivan. --Knows the U-M. --In very good standing with us. --Has popular presidential experience currently with a first-rate university whose board has treated her very unkindly. --and is BFF with Elizabeth Warren


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 2:04 a.m.

David, valid points. Interesting on accreditation. At the time of her attempted ouster, UVa was minimal online. Apparently the throttle was opened as the result of the play? The Washington Post articles on the issue highlighted the admin cost rises - same/as much at Michigan as well? BFF Warren: that's nice, but now that she is a Senator - she's got votes to get in Mass. Whole lot of nice schools there to placate first and foremost. I suppose all candidates (if vetted), will have scabs. Sullivan's may be rather new and exposed. At least she doesn't wear bow ties.


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 1:41 a.m.

@Arborcomment 1) U-M's admin salaries and (therefore) tuition increases have jumped more in those same years. But my overall concern is with you on this. 2) At least UVa is addressing online "accreditation"...not much going on in that area at U-M at all 3) No argument there. 4) That Senators have federal $ power is a colossal understatement.


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 12:01 a.m.

While the resignation/firing, protest, and re-hiring debacle at UVA is a textbook example of how not to dismiss a university president, I'd keep my "smart money" in my pocket for a while. Some members of UVA'sboard expressed dissatisfaction with the progress of Sullivan in the very areas outlined as "certain qualities important" in the article above. For example: 1) UVA's tuition and the administrative share of educational expenditures had jumped more than a third each year over a six year period. 2) Dissatisfaction with the progress of online learning programs at UVa. 3) Dissatisfaction with progress of expanding programs in STEM areas, and lack of consolidating or closing certain programs - evidenced by the fact that in 2010-2011, UVa had 71 programs at undergrad and grad levels that graduated fewer than 10 students (you know, interesting topics like history of the crusades etc.). And what does BFF Elizabeth Warren got to do with it?

Basic Bob

Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 3:15 p.m.

Too bad Richard Nixon is not available. He would have made a good president.

Dog Guy

Sun, Jun 16, 2013 : 2:29 p.m.

Reading this editorial is like drowning in Karo syrup.