Five Finalists For MMC Post… [Fr. Tim Backous]

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Mount Marty College has named the five finalists for its new president, with interviews slated to begin next week. The field, announced Monday, features a Benedictine monk, an attorney, college administrators and a businessman. The finalists, including a former Yankton resident, come from across the nation.

“The search committee believes these individuals are well qualified for the position and could provide great leadership for the college,” said committee chair Sister Jeanne Weber.

The “Final Five,” chosen from a field of 57 applicants, include:

• Father Timothy Backous, OSB, currently serving as headmaster of St. John’s Preparatory School, Collegeville, Minn.;

• Craig Columbus, JD, executive director, Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Grove City College, Grove City, Pa.;

• Dr. James Loftus, vice president, Enrollment Management and Student Services, St. Ambrose University, Davenport, Iowa;

• Dr. William Shustowski, Jr., associate executive director of development, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW);

• Robert Zylstra, MS, of Pella, Iowa, and former president and CEO of M-Tron PTI in Yankton.

The finalists will pay separate visits during October to tour the campus and meet the MMC community, Weber said. The various constituencies can provide input to the search committee.

“The campus visit is the most critical portion of the search so far,” she said.

The selection process has reached a crucial point, Weber said.

“The search committee has put in a lot of time and hard work,” she said. “We still have a fair amount of work ahead of us, but it feels good to have this field narrowed down to five candidates. We look forward to having them come on campus and get to know them better.”

The dates of the campus visits were finalized Monday, according to MMC interim president Carrol Krause. The dates are as follows: Backous, Oct. 4-5; Zylstra, Oct. 7-8; Columbus, Oct. 14-15; Loftus, Oct. 18-19; and Shustowski, Oct. 25-26.

The full-day campus visits will follow a two-part format, Weber said.

“The candidate will meet with the search committee first and then spend the day on campus in meetings with various constituencies,” she said. “Each finalist will meet with small groups of students, faculty, staff and administrators.”

Plans could include two larger group meetings during each candidate visit, Weber said.

“They can meet with student leaders at a noon luncheon,” she said. “At the end of the day, we hope to have a large forum with faculty and staff.”

After the campus visits are completed, the search committee will forward its recommendations to the MMC Board of Trustees, Krause said. The trustees can then conduct additional interviews at their Nov. 12 meeting.

The trustees forward their recommendations to the monastery council, which makes the final decision, he said.

MMC officials remain on their original timetable of making a decision by December, Krause said. The new president would then take office in January.

Krause, serving his second stint as MMC interim president, said he would assist his successor as needed.

“Will I stay on (for a transition period)?” he asked. “It depends on whoever is selected and what the need might be. I have offered to help any way I can.”

The 57 applicants represent a strong interest in MMC, Krause said.

“We had projected between 40 and 50 (candidates), so this was higher than our (expectations),” he said. “I think there is a perception (among the applicants) of what Mount Marty has to offer, and I think they see a lot of potential for the future.”

The selection process has gone well so far, Krause said. The search committee thoroughly researched applicants and narrowed the field to 17 for phone interviews and reference checks, he said.

The finalists offer a strong set of qualifications, Krause said.

“These are leaders in business and industry, and they are leaders in higher education,” he said. “They have good backgrounds and are diverse. And I think (the finalists) all did their homework, because they knew much about Mount Marty and Yankton.”

Regardless of who is chosen, the next president must show strong financial skills, Krause said.

“The people we looked at were either involved in fundraising or development, or they had started a new business and had just raised investment capital,” he said.

Weber added: “We were looking for, but we didn’t specify, that they had to be from higher education. Our primary criteria was someone upholding the mission of the college and the vision to lead the college into the future.”

The finalists represent a mix of clergy and laymen, Weber said. Backous’ selection would break new ground, as MMC has been led by Benedictine Sisters but never by a priest or monk, she said.

The presidential applicants, regardless of their background, seemed to share a common trait, Weber said.

“For the most part, they wanted to lead at a smaller Catholic college,” she said. “I didn’t see that they had aspirations of being at a larger type of institution. I think they applied because of their desire to serve, and this is where they would fit best.”

Weber said she remains confident that any of the finalists would do well in leading MMC.

“It’s just a matter of them getting to know us and (we) getting to know them more thoroughly, so we determine who among them makes the best fit possible,” she said.

Five Finalists For MMC Post
Search Committee Narrows Field For New President
BY RANDY DOCKENDORF
randy.dockendorf@yankton.net
Published: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 1:24 AM CDT

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Topics: St. John's Prep, Tim Backous

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