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An Open Letter to the Search Committee

These are hard times, we all know that.

These are also times when Washington State has a unique, competitive resource … a great university, the University of Washington.

The UW needs more than a great administrator or even a great fund raiser, we need a leader with the personal achievement and prestige necessary to represent this great school in difficult and competitive times.

Somehow, despite being a state school, the UW has achieved premier status in a league where most of our competitors are massively funded from endowments or have the unique status of being national universities.  Only a few other states can claim to have schools, public or private, in our class.

It would be hard to overestimate the benefit to Washington State of having a university with this kind of status. For those of us who are taxpayers, our children can attend a great university for a price that is 20% of the typical cost of America’s private universities, only the best of which rank with this campus.  In a global economy, very few states can offer similar resources to attract, keep and create enterprises like Boeing, Amazon, and Microsoft.  Citizens of the state, and especially of Seattle, have access to a cultural resource that, along with Seattle’s arts organizations make this city world class.

With all that, the truth is that today’s UW is largely a private school .. receiving only 16% of its support from the State of Washington.  The bargain is too good to believe!

Now, you are searching for a new President to lead this institution.  We urge you to find a leader with the prestige and personal achievement necessary to be a credible leader.

“Prestige” is an important property for the person who will be seen as our leader.  While other state schools seem to be turning to career administrators, as was true for the appointment of President Emmert, the Regents need to realize that no matter how charming or how talented an academic administrator may be, he or she is not likely to impress the legislators or the business leaders who are so important to our future. Nor is that sort of President likely to have an easy time achieving the respect of a faculty as good as this one.

A good place for the search to start might be by seeking the advice of the UW’s most impressive faculty.  Aside from department heads and members of the Senate, we are lucky to have faculty in all parts of the campus whose personal achievements are world class.  This includes Nobel laureates, members of the National Academy, recipients of the MacArthur genius award, world class economists, environmentalists, authors and artists.  A not small number of our faculty have even had major impacts as inventors and entrepreneurs.

Where else could you turn for better insight into the kind of person such a community needs as its leader and prime representative?

We know your task is difficult but wanted to be sure you know the kind of leader we, the faculty, hope to follow.


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