A year-long process to find the next president of The Evergreen State College came to a shocking conclusion Wednesday when the college’s Board of Trustees emerged from a three-hour meeting and announced that the three finalists for the job had withdrawn their names from consideration.
Board of Trustees Chairwoman Karen Fraser said all three finalists — Michael Dumont, Catherine Kodat and Lee Lambert — withdrew following recent interviews with faculty, students, staff and alumni.
“We’re still in a state of surprise and disappointment,” she said. “This is where we are at the moment.”
The Olympian wasn’t privy to all the community interviews, but did observe a three-hour virtual gathering with alumni and others, which appeared to be a cordial exchange of questions and answers with the finalists.
The finalists were:
• Michael Dumont, a recently retired Navy vice admiral and lawyer with experience as a prosecutor and national security leader. He earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Southern Maine, a law degree from Suffolk University Law School and master’s degrees in national security studies from the U.S. Army War College and the National War College.
• Catherine Kodat, provost and dean of faculty at Lawrence University in Wisconsin, and a former journalist turned academic scholar who has served as faculty, department chair, and dean at several liberal arts colleges throughout the U.S. She earned an undergraduate degree in English at the University of Baltimore, and her graduate degrees at Boston University.
• Lee Lambert, chancellor of Tucson’s Pima Community College system, is a former president of Shoreline Community College and an Army veteran. He earned his undergraduate degree from Evergreen and a law degree from Seattle University, and went on to serve as special assistant to the president for civil rights and legal affairs at Evergreen.
Trustee Ed Zuckerman defended the process the college undertook to find a president, but also said, “We have some learning to do as a community as to why they withdrew.”
“The process is not at issue from my standpoint,” he said.
Trustee David Nicandri said the common conceit about the college is that its biggest challenge is in recruitment and retention, but he also cited a “deeper set of problems” facing the college, which he did not identify.
“A forthcoming interim president or interim administrator or permanent appointment must engage constructively and continuously with the campus community with one primary objective in mind — that we engage in the ideal model of shared governance in a collegial and constructive manner,” he said.
On that note, Nicandri made a motion before the board to identify a process that can bring forward an interim president or interim administrative structure by July 1, while the board continues to look for a president. His motion was approved by the board.
Current president George Bridges, who announced more than a year ago a plan to return to teaching, leaves the job of president at the end of June.
Zuckerman said the board received a tremendous amount of input from the community about the presidential search process, and that there were “strong opinions that have to be dealt with in a positive manner.”
Zuckerman made a motion before the board as well, saying that since there will not be a president-elect working with the current president, the board will be the entity to fill any future vacancies among the ranks of senior vice presidents. The board agreed to that as well.
“The board is ready to roll up its sleeves to do what needs to be done until we get a president,” he said.
Trustee Miguel Perez-Gibson echoed Fraser’s remarks.
“We surprised and shocked a lot of people today and believe me, we feel your surprise and shock,” he said.
The Board of Trustees was set to meet again at 11 a.m. Friday.