Excerpt from the Minutes of the Shimer College Board Meeting of May 2008, Concerning the Sudden Candidacy of Thomas Lindsay


Presidential Committee Chair Patrick Parker announced that the field of candidates, after campus visits by the top three applicants, is now narrowed to two: Peter Bardaglio and Mark Tierno, with David Epstein having been taken out of consideration. If the Search Committee were to select a single applicant at this point, it would be Mark Tierno, who has turned Cazenovia College around, improving both the quantity and quality of its students, a trend which continues under his Presidency.

Patrick reported that at a meeting with Ron and with the College’s major anonymous benefactor—who donated $75,000 to the College on that occasion—the latter had expressed the view that, in Patrick’s words, “he was not interested in contributing so much to just another liberal arts college,” and that “he wants Shimer to become an example others will follow, away from some of the sins of contemporary higher education.” The donor, Patrick continued, understands that Shimer’s search has been limited by its financial situation, and is willing to help fund the presidential salary of “a first-class person, if it’s the right kind of person,” with a contribution of $200,000 over three years ($66,000 per year) for the purpose.

In view of this development, Patrick went on, the Presidential Search Committee thinks that Thomas Lindsay should be invited to apply for the Presidency. Lindsay was one of the persons considered at the beginning of the search for an interim President, having been suggested by then Acting Chair Chris Nelson. He is Bill Rice’s boss at the National Endowment for the Humanities, a “Great Books guy,” very interested in Shimer, and would likely be a highly successful fundraiser, Patrick said. Lindsay declined to be a candidate when originally approached because of commitments both to the NEH and to residing near his daughter as she attends high school in Washington, D.C.

We do not want to lose Tierno, whose Board of Trustees meets tomorrow, Patrick said. This afternoon Chris Nelson will call Lindsay and offer him a remuneration package that would include funding of frequent travel between Chicago and Washington. The Search Committee recommends that if Lindsay is amenable to being a candidate, he be quickly brought to campus for interviewing. The Committee also recommends, Patrick said, that if Lindsay is not available, the Presidency of Shimer be offered to Mark Tierno. Letting it be known that he was now speaking for himself, Patrick expressed the opinion that Tom Lindsay would be “head and shoulders above the current candidates.”

Noting that Lindsay is highly recommended by Bill Rice, who will also be speaking to him, Patrick said that another possible candidate is Bill Rice himself. Patrick said he believes that Bill would be interested in returning, and that if he did his relations with students and staff would be better this time.

Student Trustee Nick Schmitt asked if the anonymous donor would withdraw his support if the Board were to elect Tierno. Patrick answered that he probably would not. Ron commented that the Donor said he did not want to meet candidates and “did not want to get into vetting specific candidates.” “But he will probably like Lindsay,” he added.

It was brought to the attention of the Board by Ron and several members that a Tierno presidency would also require the support of the anonymous donor, since he asks for a salary that is also greater than the budgeted amount of $120,000.

Faculty Trustee Ann Dolinko suggested that we might simply re-open the search, but it was pointed out that it would almost certainly entail a period without a president, since Ron will definitely be leaving Shimer at the end of his contract in August. Ron said that a hiatus without a president would not be a catastrophe for the College, since revenue-generating structures are in place. But it was agreed that such a hiatus or the election of another interim president could only be a last resort.

Peter Schroth and Faculty Trustee Albert Fernandez expressed the view that at this point in its history Shimer College should aim at greatness and not merely prosperity, and should choose someone with a national profile as its leader.

Patrick said that Tierno would be a better match than Peter and Albert suggest. He is a scholar whom students liked when he visited classes. Ann recalled that he wanted to teach if he were to become President. Phil Farina pointed out that Tierno has long been interested in Shimer, which he visited on his own initiative during the Waukegan years. Rebecca Sundin, a member of the Search Committee, said that of the applicants interviewed so far he is “the only one who wants to come to Shimer” in particular.

Further discussion was tabled pending Chris Nelson’s afternoon call to Lindsay. After the call, Ron was able to report that Lindsay was indeed “interested,” “excited,” and even “moved” by the College’s willingness to help with travel. Lindsay would be visiting campus soon.

Chris had also spoken to our search consultant, Brian Carlson, regarding Tierno’s candidacy. Carlson reported that Tierno has been told that he is one of two finalists, and is willing to wait for a final decision. Patrick Parker said that the Board can expect the Search Committee’s final recommendation by June 1st.

* Patrick Parker moved and Edgar Pigg seconded that:

The Board of Trustees, after receiving the recommendation of the Presidential Search Committee, will meet to elect the President of the College by secret ballot. If electronic means of balloting should fail, President Champagne is authorized to poll Trustees individually and announce the result of the vote.

The motion was passed unanimously.

There was renewed discussion of the size of the majority by which the new President is to be elected, which was set at the plenary of February 6, 2008, at “at least a ¾ majority of Trustees present at the Board meeting when the vote is taken, and by a majority of the entire Board membership” [minutes, pg. 7]. As at the February meeting, Albert expressed concern about what would happen if such a large majority did not materialize. Barry Carroll said that a second ballot could always be taken to establish unanimity, regardless of the size of the majority on the first. Dan Shiner said that the reason for setting a ¾ majority in February was “to ensure internal confidence.” Albert and Marc Hoffman pointed out that since Lindsay’s visit is to take place during the summer, it will be important to maximize whatever community input can be obtained at the time.