Quest for the best: Overview of the presidential hunt

The selection of George P. “Bud” Peterson took place mostly behind the scenes, but the process was methodical and required the input of many different parties from Tech and the Board of Regents (BOR) of the University System of Georgia.

In March, former president Wayne Clough announced his departure to become the 12th secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. In the meantime, Gary Schuster, Tech’s provost, served as the interim president.

The 21-member presidential search committee, formed in July, was made up of eight Regents, seven professors, two Tech-affiliated foundation chairs, two business sector representatives and two student representatives. In order to ensure the quality of the selection, the BOR brought in a search consultant, R. William Funk and Associates, to help with soliciting nominations and attracting candidates.

“We set out with the clear vision of finding the best president for Georgia Tech. We didn’t want a transition president or a short-term president but one that could take us to the next level,” said Nick Wellkamp, undergraduate student body president and a member of the search committee in a non-voting capacity.

The search committee’s work kicked off Aug. 12 with its first meeting, in which some goals and logistics were set out. On Sept. 17, the Presidential Search Open Forums were held in the Student Center Theater in order to gather student feedback on what qualities they would like to see in Tech’s next president.

Nominations and applications were taken through November, with a final tally of nearly 100 applicants. On Oct. 30, the search committee distilled the pool to a short list of 10 to 15 candidates, which was then further reduced to a group of five to seven. Members of the search committee conducted due diligence activities, including extensive background research on the candidates. Off-site interviews were conducted with these candidates from Dec. 7 to Dec. 9, with three to five finalists being recommended to the BOR for final interviews in mid-January.

After the search committee made its last selections, the BOR consulted further references who knew the candidates but whose names were not provided by the candidates, before making their final decision. Due to confidentiality issues, the exact number of candidates at each stage were not revealed.

“We asked questions about the candidates’ previous roles, their responsibilities, their experience with finances and fundraising, intercollegiate athletics, diversity, research and commercialization, student life, internationalization and their perceptions of Georgia Tech. And then we just asked any questions that came up during each individual interview,” Wellkamp said.

The BOR announced Peterson as the finalist for Tech’s presidency two weeks ago. The Georgia Open Records Act requires a 14-day interval between the naming of the BOR’s choice for the finalist and their confirmation. On Wednesday, Peterson was confirmed as the new president.