An introduction to President Bud Peterson

After former Institute President Wayne Clough left in March of last year to become the twelfth Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, the Tech community began its search for the next permanent president. The process taken to find current President George P. “Bud” Peterson was methodical and required the input of many different facets of Tech as well as the Regents of the University System of Georgia.

The 21-member presidential search committee was formed in July and comprised eight Regents, seven professors, two Tech-affiliated foundation chairs, two business sector representatives and two student representatives. The faculty representatives and the student representatives were chosen in particular through recommendations and lists from the student body, other faculty members, departments and the president’s office. Included in the committee are also notable Tech alumni Joe Rogers, one of the cofounders of Waffle House, and Chris Young, the chief of protocol and director of international affairs for the state of Georgia.

In order to ensure the quality of the selection, the Board of Regents brought in a search consultant company, 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, former undergraduate student body president and a member of the search committee.

The search committee’s work kicked off on Aug 12 with its first meeting, in which some goals and logistics were set out. On September 17, Presidential Search Open Forums were held in the Student Center Theater in order to gather student feedback on what qualities they find vital to being a good university President.

“The next president needs to know the culture of Georgia Tech in planning its strategy, and also needs to be efficient, effective and organized… to be able to inspire people. The president needs to be more than a manager, but needs to be a leader…to inspire confidence and trust,” said Gary Schuster, Interim President during the search process and current Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs.

Nominations and applications for the position were taken through November, with a final tally of nearly 100 applicants. On October 30, the search committee distilled the pool to a short list of 10-15 candidates, which was then further reduced to 5 to 7. Members of the search committee conducted “due diligence activities,” which included extensive research on the candidates.

Off-site, one-and-a-half-hour interviews were conducted with these candidates on December 7-9 and only a very small number of finalists were recommended to the Board of Regents for interviews in mid-January. After the search committee made its last selections, the Board of Regents consulted non-directed references (people that the Board of Regents thought would know more about the candidates but whose names were not provided by the candidates themselves) in making their final decision.

“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.

On February 9, the Board of Regents announced Dr. G. P. Bud Peterson, former chancellor of the University of Colorado at Boulder, as the sole finalist for Tech’s presidency. Peterson had been the chancellor of CU since 2006, after six years as provost at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and 19 years at Texas A&M. Previously, he was a walk-on wide receiver while an undergraduate at Kansas State, and spent several years teaching at high schools in Kansas.

President Peterson formally took office as Tech’s eleventh President on April 1.

Peterson has been CU’s chancellor since July 2006, during which he led the university’s initiative to reinvent itself as a flagship university of the 21st century. At that period, the institution had been struck by several scandals, which threatened the university’s reputation.

Despite his success at CU, Peterson saw an opportunity to effect lasting change around the world as president of Tech.

“When you think about institutions around the world that can have a dramatic impact on [areas such as energy and sustainability], Georgia Tech in particular is an institution with [those] characteristics. If we’re going to solve really challenging problems…they’re going to be solved at places like Georgia Tech,” Peterson said in a brief address shortly after the announcement of his appointment.

In the speech, he mentioned that Tech has become an example to other universities, citing a memo one of his associates sent to CU’s faculty. “He said, if you want to know how institutions improve, look at Georgia Tech,” Peterson said.

He proposed an engineering-like approach with which he will try to maintain the quality of a Tech education and a tradition of improvement despite dwindling state revenues. “It’s easy to do more with more. What requires innovation and creativity and leadership is to be able to do more with less,” Peterson said.

The investiture ceremony for President Peterson will take place on September 3. All students are welcome to attend this event.