Shared from the 3/14/2017 American Press eEdition

McNeese moves ahead in search for leader

With senators, business leaders, faculty and students in attendance, McNeese State University moved one step closer to finding its next president with a well-attended public forum and presidential search committee meeting on Monday at McNeese.

The Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System held the event to gather feedback from campus and community.

Dr. Philip Williams, president of McNeese since 2010, will retire on June 30.

UL System President and CEO Dr. Jim Henderson said, “What an extraordinary opportunity this is as the university moves toward its 80th year. How fortunate you are to be here in such a fast-growing city with so much going for it. We’re here today to listen and learn; your comments will be extremely helpful through the search process which is transparent and participatory.”

Sen. Ronnie Johns helped to set the genial tone of the forum when he introduced himself to the board and, alluding to past budget cuts to higher education in Louisiana, said, “By the way, I do serve on the Senate Finance Committee” as the room erupted in laughter. “These are challenging times and I appreciate you serving on this board. I also want to publicly thank Dr. Williams. He led this university through budget cuts but he did it with a positive attitude, a smile on his face and a vision for McNeese.”

Johns said Southwest Louisiana is in a period of “unprecedented growth and this university is a catalyst for that. As we move forward, we should be looking for someone with energy, integrity, and someone who can take Mc-Neese to a whole new level.”

R.B. Smith, vice president of Workforce Development at the SWLA Economic Development Alliance, said, “I’m a proud alumnus of McNeese and I’m here today representing the Economic Alliance. We’re grateful for the work of Dr. Williams over the years. He demonstrated stability and positive leadership. We seek those same qualities in our next president and more than anything we should be looking for a visionary.”

Kedrick Nicholas, a former scholarship athlete at Mc-Neese and current director of Campus Life, Engagement, and Student Retention at Mc-Neese, said, “In the advertisement being run seeking a new president there is no mention of diversity. As this city grows and McNeese continues to grow, the population becomes even more diverse. We need a leader that can connect with that.”

Several business leaders as well as those involved in the SEED Center spoke of the importance– especially considering the economic growth in Southwest Louisiana – in choosing a president who understands business and entrepreneurship.

Michael Eason, senior vice president and resident director of Merrill Lynch, said, “I’m a 1978 graduate of McNeese and a 2005 recipient of the ‘Alumni of the Year’ for service at MSU. I have raised approximately $250,000 for McNeese and have endowed a scholarship in the School of Business for three undergraduates per year. I think it’s fair to say I bleed blue and gold.”

Easen said “thinking outside the box” is a phrase that should be included in the job description for president. “Seven years ago, I stood before this committee and stated that we needed a business academic and how prophetic that statement was given the cuts to funding through the years.”

Mike Fuljenz, a business leader and supporter of McNeese, said, “I started at McNeese when I was just 7 years old; I was in the gifted student program. I have loved McNeese for 55 years and I’m a ‘Top 10’ donor to the university. Pick the best person - whether it’s a man, woman, white, black, Vietnamese, or whatever. Pick the best.”

Michael Dees, a local attorney and counsel to the Port of Lake Charles, said he went to McNeese 47 years ago and, “McNeese has been doing what it’s supposed to do but not necessarily what it can do. Lake Charles will soon be the LNG center of the world - is McNeese going to be involved in that? It should be.”

Other dignitaries in attendance were Sen. Dan “Blade Morrish; Willie Mount, former senator and current president of the McNeese Foundation; Vic Stelly, a former state representative; and Johnny Suydam, a former McNeese baseball coach.

‘As we move forward, we should be looking for someone with energy, integrity, and someone who can take McNeese to a whole new level.’

See this article in the e-Edition Here