On Tuesday, The Setonian participated in a conference call with the chair of the Presidential Search and Screen Committee, Joseph LaSala. The call was recorded at WSOU 89.5 FM and later transcribed by Managing Editor Brian Wisowaty.
Q: What was your initial response and reaction after named chair of the search committee?
A: I was surprised when I was selected. I was thrilled and honored, and I accepted the job knowing the responsibility.
Q: Any suggestion that you would be named chair or did it come “out of the blue?”
A: It was just kind of out of the blue. I am the chair of the committee on regents so I do have a role in a lot of the affairs of the Board of Regents but it was a surprise. The Board of Regents that’s constituted now is tremendous and anyone could have served as chair.
Q: Your background, notably at Seton Hall?
A: I’m a lawyer; I’m a partner at the firm McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney and Carpenter with our main offices in Morristown. I graduated from the law school in 1972. My first involvement with the affairs of either the university or the law school was in 1980 when I was asked to chair the first phone-a-thon that the law school ran. My involvement increased dramatically after that. Ultimately, I was president of the law school and university alumni associations. I have chaired several of the capital campaigns for the law school. I’ve been on the Board of Regents for, I think, 15 years, the Board of Trustees for at least 10 and I’m a member of the board of visitors at the law school.
Q: Your comments on the committee members and if there was criteria in choosing them?
A: First, I want to say that I’m thrilled with the make-up of the committee. I think it’s excellent. I think it’s a cross-section of the university as a whole and everyone is extremely committed and knows the time commitment that this is ultimately going to take and is anxious to do it. It’s important to keep in mind that, though we have different roles within the university, we’re not on the committee to serve a constituency. I’m not there to serve the needs of the law school or the needs of the Board of Regents. We’re there as representatives of the university as a community and our job is to find the best possible person to succeed (current University President) Msgr. (Robert) Sheeran.
Q: What are some of the specifics of the committee’s meetings, including frequency?
A: We’ve already met once. We met and we’ve gone over our code of ethics, our confidentiality agreement. Our charge was read to us by the chairman of the Board of Regents, Kurt Borowsky, and we set a timetable to have a person in place by early spring of 2010. We are meeting again this Thursday to move a little further along and our consultants will be with us. Once we have a pool of candidates to deal with, we plan to meet as regularly, as we have to, to get the job done.
Q: What details can you provide on the search firm that is assisting the community?
A: In searches like this, for this level of person at a university, nine out of 10 times a search firm serves as a consultant. We’re lucky – we have Issacson, Miller out of Boston. Issacson, Miller is a firm with 24 partners and some 80 professionals. Two partners will be working with us – Denise Gaffney and Dave Haley. They both volunteered for the project, which is nice. And they have an associate working with us, Bernie Jones, who comes from Short Hills so he has some knowledge of the area, the university, the institution – so where we are and what we are. I think it’s a really nice mix. They have extensive experience and expertise with searches involving Catholic universities. The by-laws of the university require that the president be a Roman Catholic priest. They have done several searches for universities at the highest levels involving religious and just Catholic universities in general.
Q: What is the involvement of the Archdiocese of Newark and its Archbishop (Rev. John Myers)?
A: Well, it’s a diocesan university. (The Archbishop) is also the president of the Board of Regents and the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the university. So he has a role. He is not a member of the search committee, but he will certainly be kept abreast of what’s going on.
Q: What is the nature and the specifics of the search? Is there anyone the committee is leaning towards from the start?
A: We are not leaning towards anyone. Our goal is to conduct the broadest possible national search to bring to the Board of Regents a slate of finalists who are qualified (finalist or finalists) to step into Msgr. Sheeran’s shoes and lead this university forward. The search will take on many different aspects. We expect to have nominations from people, recommendations from people. Issacson, Miller is a firm national in scope and they will cast the broadest possible net.
Q: How can the community get involved and stay informed?
A: We have our Web site set up. It’s a tremendous Web site. There will be information posted on the Web site when it comes available. (Seton Hall Director of Media Relations) Jill Matthews keeps us up to date on the input that various people throughout the university community provide to her. That is passed on to me and then to every member of the committee. Confidentiality is a huge part of any search because, in order to get the best possible candidates, often times their employers don’t want them leaving. So until it becomes pretty far along in the process, you can’t identify who those people are. But we’ll certainly, to the extent we can without compromising that, provide whatever information we can.
Q: Additional information to provide to the campus community?
A: You should know as the process evolves and when we reach the finalists, (they) will meet with the university community. The university community will then provide input back to the search committee, and then the search committee will make the final recommendations to the Board of Regents. We want the university to know that we will do everything we can to provide the university with the best possible leader going forward.
Brian Wisowaty can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.