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FSU Takes First Look at Presidential Applicants

The public is getting its first glimpse of applicants to replace Florida State President T.K. Wetherell, which include a middle school teacher, a management information systems professor, an astronaut, and the FSU law dean.

The search for a new president began this summer after Wetherell announced his retirement at a June meeting of the university's trustees. Wetherell's contract doesn't expire until 2011, but told the trustees he would like to retire as soon as possible.

The university trustees named a search committee and hired a consulting firm, which set the application deadline at Dec. 1. The search committee began perusing the applications on Monday and will meet Dec. 1 and Dec. 2 to formally review the applications and decide which of the candidates to interview. The interviews will take place Dec. 2 through Dec. 4, and the committee will meet after the final interview to make its recommendations to the full Board of Trustees.

The new president will enter at a stressful time, as state funding for the university system continues to lag and cuts will likely have to be made. Florida State trustees approved a budget this summer that would eliminate about 200 positions and trim $56 million from the budget over three years. The university has also been in a fight with the NCAA over allegations of academic cheating by athletes.

Although rumored as possible candidates earlier this summer, former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., and FSU Trustees Chair Jim Smith both quashed the rumors early on and said they were not interested in the high profile university job.

Eighteen people have applied so far for the presidency, including three candidates from Florida State. FSU Law School Dean Don Weidner, Associate Dean for College Relations and Professor of Electrical Engineering Norman Thagard, who is a former astronaut, and College of Business Dean Caryn Beck-Dudley have all applied for the university's top job.

There are also applicants from Boston College, Auburn University and Mississippi State among other institutions.

The university had an open application process, but the consulting firm is also doing some recruiting for the position as well.

Weidner, who has taught at the law school since 1976 and served as Dean since 1991, has been widely praised for his fundraising capabilities and his leadership of the college. In 2005, several alumni established a $1 million endowment in his name. The FSU Law Student Bar Association was also named “SBA of the Year” the past two years by the American Bar Association.

However, he was also running the law school in the late 1990s when the school came under scrutiny after allegations that the work environment was hostile for women. Several women left the faculty, saying they were belittled by their male colleagues.

Ed Walborsky, a 1979 graduate who spearheaded the endowment effort, wrote a letter of support for Weidner's application as did two other faculty members.

“Florida State is at a crossroads,” Walborsky wrote. “It is currently mired in mediocrity and without strong leadership to direct the university through these difficult economic and academic times. The university is in need of leadership that is capable of moving the institution forward both in achieving academic excellence and increasing its national ranking and reputation.”

The full list of applicants so far is as listed below.

Carol Bennett, a middle school teacher from Cartersville, Ga.

Chris Silva, former associate professor of Spanish, Fayetteville State University.

Sarit Levy, faculty member in management information systems, Northwood University.

M.T. Attaf, former lecturer, Université du Québec à Montréal.

Stephen Cutler, Chair and Professor for the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Director of the National Institutes of Health Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) at University of Mississippi.

Robert Robbins, Director of Stanford University Cardiovascular Institute and Chair of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Falk Cardiovascular Research Center – Stanford University.

Valentine James, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Clarion University of Pennsylvania.

Bart Lerner, Campus President at Argosy University, Phoenix.

Lawrence McCrank, Dean for Library & Information / Learning & Instruction Services, Chicago State University.

William Durgin, University Executive for Research and External Support California Polytechnic State University.

Peter Rabideau, Provost and Academic Vice President, Mississippi State University.

Caryn Beck-Dudley, Dean, Florida State College of Business.

Kevin Bedell, Vice Provost for Research and John H. Rourke Professor of Physics, Boston College

Norman Thagard, Associate Dean for College Relations and Professor of Electrical Engineering Florida State University.

Thomas Hanley, Professor of Chemical Engineering / Former Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Auburn University.

Allen Ross, Director, Population Health Research/Chair of Public Health, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia.

Don Weidner, Dean of Law, Florida State University.

Donald Foss, Professor/ Former Senior Vice President and Provost, University of Houston.

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