University of Hawaii interim President David McClain is shown here Thursday, when he recommended qualified approval of a Navy research center for the school.
McClain lauded as ideal president
A UH Board of Regents committee wants to take "interim" off his current job title
As a Board of Regents search committee tried to define what it was looking for in the next University of Hawaii president, the consensus was that UH already had the ideal candidate, board Chairwoman Kitty Lagareta said.
Some facts about University of Hawaii's interim president:
» Age: 59
» Appointed interim president by the Board of Regents after it dismissed former president Evan Dobelle in June 2004
» Appointed UH interim vice president for research in February 2003
» Appointed dean of the UH-Manoa College of Business Administration in 2000
» Joined UH-Manoa in 1991 as the College of Business Administration's Henry A. Walker Distinguished Professor of Business Enterprise
Interim President David McClain had the sought-after qualities: an academic and business background and the ability to get along with different groups in Hawaii, Lagareta said.
Yesterday, the committee recommended to the full board that the regents suspend the search and begin contract negotiations with McClain, who had said in November he would not "actively pursue" the position.
The recommendation will be discussed next month at a special regents meeting.
McClain, named interim president in August 2004, said yesterday he was "gratified" by the board's support, but did not say if he would accept the job, said Carolyn Tanaka, the university's vice president for external affairs.
Student and faculty leaders on different campuses expressed support yesterday for keeping McClain in the job.
But a key state senator said the board would be doing a "tremendous disservice" to the community by not conducting a national search to truly determine if McClain really is the best candidate.
"If he's the best, then he should have to prove himself by having an open and transparent and public hiring process," said Sen. Clayton Hee, chairman of the Higher Education Committee.
But UH-Manoa political science professor Larry Nitz noted that the last two national searches did not bring UH the best candidates. "It's better to stick with the devil you know, rather than the devil you don't," he said. "I think the prospect of going out on a national search and avoiding someone that another school is trying to shovel out with the trash is real slim."
All Campus Council of Faculty Chairs members, the leaders of the faculty senates at each of the 10 UH campuses, were generally pleased with the recommendation to keep McClain as president, said Gaynel Buxon, chairwoman of the Honolulu Community College Faculty Senate, although the group did not take a formal position.
Grant Teichman, president of UH-Manoa's undergraduate student government, said he hopes the board can act this quickly in filling the other numerous interim positions at UH.
After talking with other student leaders, Teichman added that the consensus seemed to be that it is better for the university to have stable leadership sooner rather than later.
"It's a good opportunity for the university to start making some good decisions about the future of the university and where we want to go," Teichman said.
Former UH President Fujio Matsuda said of McClain: "He's a very able person. He knows the university. He's been here a long time. He's a respected scholar in his own right. So if we were to look for a president, I would guess that we are looking for someone like David McClain."
The announcement of the search committee's recommendation came a day after McClain recommended to the board that the university establish a controversial Navy research center at the system level.
That means that the next president could be in charge of overseeing the University Affiliated Research Center, said Ikaika Hussey, a leader of the Save UH/Stop UARC Coalition.
"It will be a UARC presidency," Hussey said. "His decision yesterday shows he's willing to go against the majority of the university."
The board appointed a search committee of six regents in December to look into hiring a search firm and begin the national search for the next UH president after McClain's news conference taking himself out of the running.
McClain, 59, said he would not be willing to serve a full seven-year term, but he seemed to leave the door open for a shorter term until 2009.
Lagareta said the regents' committee met with two national experts on presidential searches and two companies that specialize in finding university presidents. They asked why the board was not looking at keeping McClain before starting a national search, she said.
One firm told the committee that their chances of finding someone like McClain in a national search "were less than 50 percent."
Lagareta said she and regent Alan Landon met with McClain earlier this month, and a couple of days after the meeting, he told her that the "door wasn't completely nailed shut" on whether he would take the job for less than seven years.
McClain was promoted after the board fired former President Evan Dobelle in June 2004. The firing was later rescinded in a settlement agreement, and Dobelle was allowed to resign after receiving severance.