Hunt for Tech dean extended

Sheila Burt

The search for a new McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science dean will continue into Spring Quarter, most likely causing administrators to appoint a temporary dean to lead the school next year, officials confirmed Monday.

The decision to extend the search for the position means that an interim dean will lead McCormick most likely from July until the beginning of Winter Quarter.

“We are reluctant to appoint as dean a person whom we judge to be a less-than-ideal fit for McCormick at this time,” wrote University Provost Lawrence Dumas in an e-mail sent to McCormick faculty in February. “Thus, the search for a new dean for McCormick will be reopened.”

John Birge, the current McCormick dean, will end his deanship at the end of June. He will assume a position as a professor of operations management at the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business in July.

A search committee formed last year met with Dumas and University President Henry Bienen in December to present them with a list of three people for the position.

Dumas told The Daily Monday that officials were “very interested” in one of the candidates. But the candidate later told them he did not want to be considered further for the deanship.

Officials said the list usually includes candidates both internal and external to the university.

According to the e-mail Dumas sent to McCormick faculty, he and Bienen concluded that the other two candidates did not have “the combination of background, perspective, and administrative approach which we believe McCormick needs.”

Dumas told The Daily that reopening a search and appointing an interim dean is not unusual and allows the university time to find a person “who really fit the needs” of McCormick.

He recalled a time when the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences needed in interim dean before former Weinberg Dean Eric Sundquist started, in 1997. Dumas added that officials will appoint the interim dean in the spring.

Bienen told The Daily on Friday that he is looking for a dean “who can take it to the next level.”

“I think it’s got to be a person who can handle a lot of complexity,” Bienen said. “You’re just looking for someone who can do almost everything well in the university in a very, very complicated job.”

Wallace Hopp, an industrial engineering professor and chairman of the search committee, said the group is still in its early stages but has begun working. He hopes to have a list of three to six candidates completed by June for administrators to review.

He said members have contacted many faculty and staff members, advisory counsels and deans at the top 25 engineering schools.

“It’s a very difficult thing,” Hopp said. “Your standards are very high, and the very best people aren’t looking for jobs. We call them up.”

Hopp added that the “pool of available people” to lead an engineering school is smaller than one for a college of arts and sciences.

“Northwestern sets very high standards, and so they channel through people,” he said. “And if they don’t get their top choice we tend to go back to the drawing board.

“Deans are really important at Northwestern.”

The university’s search for a new dean of the Graduate School also continues. Dumas said the committee that completed the internal search should present the list to officials later this week.

Dumas and Bienen will then interview the candidates to replace Richard Morimoto and decide in the coming weeks, with hope that the new dean will begin the position in September.