Finding a President: Committee Members Reflect on Search for Ithaca College’s Ninth Leader

By James W. Nolan, Jr. ’77, Parent ’01, February 24, 2017

Finding a President: Committee Members Reflect on Search

As the chair of the Presidential Search Committee, I’m delighted to be able to express to the Ithaca College community how pleased we are with the selection of Dr. Shirley M. Collado as the ninth president of Ithaca College. It has been deeply rewarding to see how enthusiastically our community has embraced her selection.

Our search process began almost a year ago after I accepted the invitation by our board chair, Tom Grape, to lead this effort. The ensuing year has been informative, reinforcing, enlightening, and rewarding. I have personally connected with the IC community, especially our search committee members, in a deep and meaningful way. We were fortunate to work with a highly professional and capable search consultancy firm in Spencer Stuart, and search consultants Michele Haertel and Mary Gorman. Their diligence, experience, and insights were critical to us all. The support we received from the administrative staffs of both IC and Spencer Stuart were invaluable. “Thank you” does not capture how much we appreciate their support. I hope you will join me once more in thanking the entire committee:

• Michael Battle ’77, trustee
•  Donathan Brown, faculty
• Sybil Conrad, staff trustee
• Diane Gayeski ’74, dean
• Claire Gleitman, faculty
• Tom Grape ’80, trustee and board chair
• Michele Hau ’18, student
• Andrew Kosinuk ’06, staff
• David Lissy ’87, trustee and board vice chair
• Ciara Lucas ’17, student trustee
• Kristin Muenzen ’00, alumni trustee
• Gabi Starr, trustee
• Thomas Swensen, faculty
• Kurt Wolfgruber ’72, trustee

As a committee, we worked diligently to reflect the values of collaboration, inclusiveness, respect, and commitment to the greater good. I am very proud to have worked with this team. They are a wonderful reflection of what is so compelling about our institution.

Although the search process took longer than we expected, we couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome. As anyone who has served on a search committee knows, each search is a new adventure, with many ups and downs, some unexpected moments and, eventually, the arrival at the destination. I want to acknowledge our search committee members for representing all of our constituencies so well and taking their responsibilities so seriously. They are an exceptional group of professionals, and I will forever be grateful for their input and hard work.

This week, as we began wrapping up the work we undertook together, I asked our committee members to write a few of their own words to reflect on how they felt about the process. Here is what they had to say:

Serving on the search committee gave me a chance to really get to know some amazing people in the IC community. This search was quite a journey, but we all worked together really well and worked really hard to find the right leader for IC. Even when we had differing perspectives, it was clear we all shared the same goal.  We worked together in a positive and respectful way, even when the work was tough.  I am so grateful to have had this experience.

–Sybil Conrad

The search committee brought many diverse perspectives but remained laser-focused on the qualities the community identified as being important in our new leader. I’ve never seen a group take a charge more seriously. I don’t think any of us has slept well for 10 months!

–Diane Gayeski

The process did not take the shape that we expected, and I know that disappointed some people. Nevertheless, I was grateful to the campus community for its continued support. I can say without qualification that the work we did as a search committee was fully collaborative, transparent, and collegial. There was never a moment during the 10-month process when I felt that my voice was not heard and not fully welcome. 

–Claire Gleitman

Through this process I've gained an even greater understanding about this institution that we all know and love, and the people who have shaped it. During this entire process I have felt validated and reassured, each constituency having equal roles in every part of development. It's been an absolute honor and privilege to work alongside fellow students, faculty, staff, and trustees to find our next leader of Ithaca College. 

–Ciara Lucas

The search process was exhaustive and diligent. I enjoyed working with faculty, staff, and trustee members of the committee, and I was continuously impressed with the ideas and considerations that were raised during the search.

–Kristin Muenzen

What stood out most was the openness and respectfulness of the committee members as we wrestled with trying to meet our community needs and the reality of the marketplace, while always staying focused on getting the best president for Ithaca College.

–Tom Swensen

Participation on the Presidential Search Committee has been a pivotal and seminal event for me. It has given me great confidence that the IC community has the leadership and judgment to assess the full breadth of challenges that the school faces, navigate a truly dynamic selection process, and select an outstanding individual who can successfully bring the entire community together to lead the school forward. 

– Kurt Wolfgruber

The announcement and appointment of Dr. Collado will certainly be a pivotal moment for Ithaca College. In representing the search committee, I can tell you she has the unanimous support of all our members. All of us were immediately and consistently struck by her intellect, composure, collaborative style, experience, vision, and executive presence.  As we got to know her better, we became more and more convinced she would be an excellent choice to lead our school at this important time in higher education.

As in any position of this magnitude, the challenge is always about defining the “right fit” – both for the institution and the candidate. In this case, we believe that the fit is exceptional: the right one for the college, and for Dr. Collado. She possesses all the leadership attributes we were seeking:  She is a strategic thinker with a strong motivational style whose broad academic experience and fundraising background, combined with a deep understanding about what’s required for an institution to achieve higher levels of performance, made her the clear choice for the search committee. Let me share how other search members felt about her candidacy:

My greatest desire for IC was to find a bridge-builder who can bring our community together, but also a visionary who can help us successfully navigate the changing landscape of higher education. Shirley Collado has tremendous experience as a collaborative and visionary leader. Every interaction I had with her further impressed and reinforced my belief that she is the right person to lead Ithaca College at this time. I could not be happier with the outcome of this search.

–Sybil Conrad

Shirley Collado's life mission is perfectly congruent with IC's mission and its history: to make exceptional learning opportunities accessible to students who have great potential and passion in an environment that makes them feel welcome and empowered.

–Diane Gayeski

Shirley Collado has so many of the attributes we sought in our next president, including a longstanding commitment to inclusive college success; a deep dedication to the liberal arts dating back to her own college years and cemented by experience in the classroom; an ability to listen to other people with care, warmth, and interest; and a personal story of confronting and surmounting challenges that I believe will be inspirational for our students.

–Claire Gleitman

I’m proud that the portrait of a great candidate that was outlined in the opportunity statement at the start of the search never drifted from the committee’s focus, and that where we finished is an excellent match with where we began.

–Andrew Kosinuk

Dr. Collado is a dynamic leader, prepared to build meaningful relationships with every constituency. Her personality and her story are truly inspiring, and I am most looking forward to the rest of the Ithaca College community being able to experience her passion for creating positive change.

–Ciara Lucas

In sports, you hear how some players just have "it."  That was the case with Dr. Collado. I knew she was the right person to lead IC from the first time I met her. She exudes great leadership through vision, listening, and setting high standards. I can't wait for the IC community to get to know her.

–Kristin Muenzen

Dr. Collado inspires me. Full stop. She has warmth that is genuine, she is a gifted leader, and her intellectual reach is a great fit for the breadth of creativity at Ithaca.

–Gabi Starr

As you can see, Dr. Collado made a deep impression on the search committee. We are very fortunate to have her join our community, and I encourage all of you to get to know her as well as we have over the last few months. I am confident you will feel, as we do, that we have found a special leader for the next phase of our exciting future.

Before signing off with my last message to you as the search committee chair, I’d like to share one last thing: As a board member, and head of the search committee, I want to emphasize that the committee and the board spent a lot of time getting to know the full breadth of Dr. Collado’s life and the journey that has taken her to this moment. We have been energized and impressed by her life’s accomplishments. We have come to understand and appreciate her life’s setbacks. And we have been inspired by the authenticity with which she has used both her victories and her obstacles to be a stronger and more successful leader. She has our complete support and confidence as she takes on this next chapter. We are delighted that we will be taking this next journey together.