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Next phase of presidential search near

As the spring approaches, Seton Hall's Presidential Search and Screen Committee stands at a vital juncture.

The timetable for installing the university's next leader - initially set for the late weeks of spring – is right around the corner, as is June 30, 2010 – the final day of Msgr. Robert Sheeran's tenure as president.

Joseph LaSala, chair of the Presidential Search and Screen Committee, said in an exclusive interview with The Setonian that he is "comfortable" with the timetable being met for finding a new president.

"We're at a rather critical stage," LaSala said. "(With scheduling conflicts), we're a couple of weeks off…in early April, the final candidates will be brought to campus for everyone to meet."

As LaSala told The Setonian in an interview several months ago, the final candidates will take part in meetings on the South Orange campus with different demographics within the Seton Hall community – administrators, faculty, and students.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Search and Screen Committee has stayed in focus throughout the winter because of some concern voiced by the Faculty Senate about the credentials of the candidates interviewed, specifically if the next leader should be a Roman Catholic priest as dictated in the university's by-laws or if the rule can be changed.

"There are three faculty members on the Search and Screen Committee," LaSala said. "The Board of Regents have formed us with the charge of the next president being a Roman Catholic priest. Not everyone will agree all the time…we're moving forward."

LaSala added that there were a number of "highly qualified" Roman Catholic priests considered for the position.

Assisting the committee throughout the process has been Issacson Miller, a search firm located in Boston. LaSala said of the firm that, "I couldn't imagine (this search) without the help of a search firm."

He added that the firm has a great deal of experience with choosing leaders for Catholic universities, and that it has helped to develop the "presidential position profile," essentially the job description for becoming university president.

"They (Issacson Miller) have reached out to our candidates, reached out to others, and guided us through the process," LaSala said. "They will not, however, have a vote at the end."

Sheeran will not have a vote either in the decision-making end of the Presidential Search and Screen Committee, as LaSala said "the committee operates in confidentiality and independently from the administration."

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As the committee enters the "stretch run" for finding Seton Hall's next president, the criteria it holds candidates to seems to be a major determining factor.

"What we've tried to do is find someone who can fill as many, if not all, of the roles of being president," LaSala said. "They need to be energetic with the ability to inspire students, faculty, and alumni… a successful and proven leader for the Catholic Church and higher education."

LaSala added that he wished to thank Issacson Miller and the individuals who have provided "administrative support" in the process.

"We've had 100 percent attendance at all of our meetings," LaSala said. "I've been on a lot of boards and committees. Everyone here has acted as professionals…with the goal of finding the best leader for Seton Hall University."

Editor's note: this article originally incorrectly listed the final day of Msgr. Sheeran's tenure as university president. It has since been edited and corrected. The Setonian regrets the error.

Brian Wisowaty can be reached at


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