By Taylor Aswell
Ruston Daily Leader
The Louisiana Tech University Presidential Search Committee met for the first time Tuesday afternoon to discuss the procedures and policies for the search process to replace current President Dan Reneau and to get some feedback from the local community about what they want in the replacement.
While the search will continue for the next few months, many community members and Tech representatives made it very clear that they do have someone in mind to replace Tech’s familiar president, and it’s with a candidate who is already very familiar with the university — Les Guice, vice president for Tech’s Research and Development and former dean of the College of Engineering and Science.
Reneau, who is stepping down effective June 30, 2013 after 26 years of service, announced his retirement Sept. 4, and since then the University of Louisiana System has been working to get a team in place to review and make a recommendation of the applicants for the 14th president of the university.
“First of all we just want to thank (Reneau) for all of the work and effort he has put into this position since he was hired. This is not going to be an easy replacement,” said ULS Board of Supervisors and committee Chair Wayne Parker, who appointed the 11 members to the search committee. “It was my responsibility to form this search committee to replace (Reneau), and we are here to listen to the perspectives and priorities of the university so we can make
the best decision possible.”
The members of the search committee include: UL System board members Edward
Crawford of Shreveport, Jimmy Faircloth of Alexandria, David Guidry of Harvey, Jimmy Long, Sr. of Natchitoches, Board Vice Chair Russell Mosely
of Baton Rouge, Parker of Choudrant and Winfred Sibille of Sunset.
Also serving as a voting member is Tech faculty member Heath Tims, who was selected by the University Senate, and student member and Tech Student Government Association President William Dearmon. Serving as advisory, non-voting members are Ruston Mayor Dan Hollingsworth and Tech Foundation President-Elect Jack Byrd.
Parker said the group met Tuesday morning to discuss the basics of the process, and that the committee had the public hearing Tuesday afternoon so the members could, “listen and learn,” but not be part of the conversation.
“We want to hear from the community what they want out of their new president,” he said.
Parker said the committee will be advertising for the position for the rest of September and October, and that by the beginning of November the committee hopes to have a pool of semifinalists available to interview publicly.
“We want things to move along at that speed, but there could always be hold ups,” he said.
After that, Parker opened up the meeting to the public, which was very vocal about what, and more specifically who, they wanted for the position.
“It was highly criticized whenever Reneau was hired that he shouldn’t have been because he was an in-house guy from Tech, but we all have seen how well that has worked out,” said former Tech professor Gary Stokley. “That’s why I think and believe we have someone right here who can continue on what (Reneau) has been doing for the past 26 years, and that person is Les Guice. He could provide great leadership and continue to give Tech great relationships in the academic world.”
Many others seconded Stokley’s thoughts, stating that going with an outside hire for the position could interfere with the way Tech has done things, and that giving the job to someone who knows how the university works and does things is the best way to go.
“He would just provide a great sense of stability and consistency,” said Tech Foundation President Benny Denny.
Lincoln ACHIEVE Coordinator Cathi Cox-Boniol also agreed that Guice should be hired for the position because of his experience at the university.
“While Tech has continued to evolve over the years, it has managed to maintain a rich culture that is based on character,” she said. “That character is what this university is about, and we don’t want someone coming in to the position from another area to mess with that.”
Several business leaders and representatives from companies who have worked with the university — such as Tech Pointe’s Fenway Group CEO Martin Santora and representatives from Murphy Oil —also spoke up on behalf of Guice, saying that their experience working with him and the university would translate well to the president position.
Guice also received support from the Louisiana Tech Alumni Board, the Shreveport/Bossier Imperative for Higher Education, numerous area business leaders and even an 18-year-old biomedical engineering doctoral candidate who said he was swayed to attend Tech by listening to Guice’s passion for his work.
“He went over with me the plan he had for the university, and we had about a one and a half to two hour dialogue about what is going on at Tech,” said Sawyer Stone, who started college at the age of 13. “He was very welcoming and encouraging, and he even told me that it made his day that he was able to meet with me.”
After hearing from the overwhelmingly pro-Guice crowd, Parker and the committee ended the meeting and said the process will continue with advertising for the position all across the nation. Parker also said the committee will keep the public up-to-date on the search, and that anyone wanting an update can check online at www.ulsystem.edu/LATECHsearch.