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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Finalist for Texas Southern president expected to be named soon

The search for Texas Southern University's next president is drawing to a close, although the selection could not come soon enough for some state lawmakers.

The university's governing board is expected to receive a recommendation from an advisory search committee at a specially called meeting — more than 18 months after the firing of former President Priscilla Slade.

Although the regents could act immediately upon the recommendation, it's likely that they will wait before making a decision because not all of them will attend the meeting, said Glenn Lewis, the board's chairman.

The short list of candidates, according to people familiar with the search process, includes interim University of Houston President John Rudley; the city of Houston's chief administrative officer, Anthony Hall; and Ivory Nelson, a former Texas A&M University System administrator who now leads Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.

It's unclear how many candidates the committee will recommend to the board.

Lewis declined to comment on the candidates but previously praised Rudley, who served as TSU's chief financial officer and internal auditor during the 1980s. He said the board needs to make a decision soon but cannot afford to make the wrong one.

"It needed to be done yesterday," Lewis said.

The board is under pressure to move quickly to the fill the position, which has been vacant since the firing of Slade in June 2006 amid a spending scandal.

TSU is at risk of losing accreditation if campus leaders do not rectify a series of financial and management issues within a year. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed the state's largest historically black university on probation last week because of the school's poor financial picture.

"I would hope that a decision be made and a new president on campus by the beginning of next semester," said state Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Houston Democrat whose district includes the 9,500-student campus. "If not, it's a big problem."

The spring semester begins next month.

The university had suspended the search this year after Gov. Rick Perry decided to replace the entire nine-member governing board. The search resumed in September after Lewis added three regents to the advisory committee, which includes alumni, faculty and community members and students.

The committee, headed by Gerald Smith, chairman and CEO of Houston investment firm Smith, Graham & Co., had narrowed the field of candidates to 18 names in November but accepted applications and nominations through last Friday.

Rudley will be the interim president at the University of Houston until Renu Khator, formerly the second in command at the University of South Florida, takes over the reins next month. Rudley is expected to return to his role of vice president for administration and finance.

Hall, a TSU-trained attorney who oversees the day-to-day operations of the city, is a former City Council member and state representative. He also recently served with Lewis on Perry's blue-ribbon committee on the future of the university.

Nelson, a noted chemist, served one year as acting president of Prairie View A&M University and six years in the top job at the Alamo Community College District in San Antonio. He has been president of the historically black Lincoln since 1999.

After the finalist are named, state law requires the regents to wait 21 days before voting on the appointment.


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