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FAU presidential search panel invites Atwater, LeMieux, 8 others for interviews

by George Bennett | January 6th, 2014

An FAU search committee took about an hour to select 10 presidential candidates for interviews from a list of more than 60 applicants.

BOCA RATON — Florida CFO Jeff Atwater and former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux were among 10 candidates invited today by a presidential search committee to come in for interviews later this week.

The selection committee plans to winnow that field to three after interviews Thursday and Friday. FAU trustees are slated to interview the finalists and choose a president on Jan. 17 to replace Mary Jane Saunders, who resigned in May amid a series of public relations embarrassments.

The idea of a politician at the helm of the 30,000-student university rubbed a few selection committee members the wrong way, however.

“I have no personal ax with Jeff Atwater. I hear he’s a tremendous guy and if he would run for governor I’d be happy to support him,” said selection panelist Dick Schmidt, whose family has been major benefactors to the university. “But I don’t think a politician is sending the right message, certainly to the academic community at large, as to where this university wants to go in the future.”

When LeMieux’s name was brought up, selection committee member Abdol Moabery, a member of FAU’s board of trustees, voiced similar concerns.

“I don’t want to be criticized for this becoming a political race. And it looks like that’s where we’re headed, a political race. If we fill this thing with politicians, it’s my opinion that this process is going to get ugly and I don’t agree with it,” Moabery said.

A third elected official who applied for the presidency, state Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, was passed over by the selection committee. Former Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Art Johnson did not get invited for an interview, either.

The eight other candidates invited for interviews have more traditional backgrounds in higher education. They are:

** Larry Lemanski, a former FAU vice president who is now a distinguished research professor at Texas A&M University-Commerce.

** Ronald E. Vogel, anassociate vice chancellor for academic affairs with the California State University System.

** Donald Siegel, dean and professor of management of the State University of New York at Albany.

** Christopher Earley the dean of the Krannert Graduate School of Management at Purdue University.

** Mary Holz-Clause, vice president for economic development at the University of Connecticut

** David Brennen, an FAU graduate who is the dean of the law school at the University of Kentucky

** Robert Wilhelm, vice chancellor for research and economic development, University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

** John W. Kelly, vice president for public service and agriculture at Clemson University.

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