West Virginia University is a sprawling institution of 33,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 200 degree programs, 14 colleges, two main campuses, a huge medical complex, a law school and extension offices throughout the state.

More than 20,000 people work for WVU. They are faculty and staff, researchers and administrators, coaches and medical doctors.  The WVU President chairs boards of the West Virginia United Health System, WVU Hospitals and the WVU Research Corporation.

The total annual budget for WVU and its affiliates is more than $2.5 billion.

With Jim Clements’ departure for Clemson University, WVU must begin the search for someone who can manage such a diverse and complex institution.

A 2012 report by the American Council on Education offers some insights about college presidents.  Here are some of the findings:

–The average age of college presidents is 61, nine years older than two decades ago.  According to the study, “As colleges and universities face a growing number of internal and external challenges, governing boards and committees are likely looking for more experienced leaders.”

–Experience matters more today.   Fifty-four percent of college and university presidents in 2011 held that same position in their previous job.  In 1984, “only 40 percent of sitting presidents held a presidency in their previous role.”

–Presidents cite fundraising as one of their primary responsibilities, along with developing budgets, community relations and strategic planning.  However, the survey found that “fundraising was the area presidents stated they were least prepared to address when they began their presidency.”

–Universities increasingly need help finding the right person.  Between 1969 and 1983, only 12 percent of presidential searches employed a consultant, but today that has risen to 80 percent.

Beyond the statistics, however, lie the intangibles, the impalpable assets necessary to be successful.

Perhaps the number one quality that the next President of WVU should have is the ability to assemble a team and lead. It’s impossible for a President to know (and operate) all the different aspects of the school, so he must be highly skilled at finding and retaining managers and keeping them focused on the mission.

The next President of WVU should also understand politics, without being a politician.  He or she needs to build relationships with the political power brokers, but still keep a distance so the University is not subject to political whims.

Finally, the President must understand that he/she is the face of the University.  Everyone from the 18-year-old freshman to well-heeled donors to national education leaders will make judgments about the University based on their perception of the President.

The word “pride” often comes up in conversations about West Virginia University.  West Virginians, whether they have attended the University or not, look upon the school with a sense of honor and gratification.

Those responsible for hiring the next President must appreciate the importance of making the right choice, one that values the history of the institution, its significance to the state, and gives WVU the best chance for success in the future.


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  • tw eagle

    I say that Gordon Gee be invited back to head WVU again . . .

  • Billy

    JR for president.

  • Shadow

    Show me a person who won't take a better job when it is offered and I will show you a loser.

  • Wowbagger

    Clements got the job out of Towson at just the right time. West Virginia has a great credit rating courtesy of Joe Manchin squirrelling away money at the expense of state employees and Bernanke opened the spigots wantonly printing money as is only possible in the digital age where bits and bytes takes the place of printing presses. Clements was very lucky!

    When WVU re-entered the national market for University Presidents they volunteered to become a stepping stone for guys (and girls) like Clements to use them on the quest to higher and higher salaries as they can't offer what an Ohio State, Clemson, or say a University of Texas can offer. Gordon Gee topped out at over a million!

    Unless WVU finds someone who has a real commitment to West Virginia Clements and most potential successors will keep their resumes up-to-date and their bags packed!

    • Only the Best

      Do you have any idea what Clements was making per year? Try $800K, it is not that big of a stretch for WVU to pay over a million.

  • cutty77

    Gaston would be a Great Choice,but Joe Manchin would throw a Tizzy Fit.

  • Dee

    Great comments Hoppy and I am saddened that President Clements will be leaving WVU. As the BOG now searches for his replacement, I can only hope that our state and national politicians will stay out of the process and let the Board do their job. I don't think President Clements was a political appointee and he seemed to be an excellent pick. Let the BOG do their job.

  • Woodchuck

    How was this not on the radar? It was a total surprise to me. I guess the media was worried about luck and huggs and holgs not to think about the academic institution.

    Please media look at the real purpose of the university and not the sports.

    Oh yea great job women's soccer. The coach will be the next woman to leave for a better offer.

  • Bert


    When they put the search committee together, you would make an excellent choice to serve on that committee. You are a graduate and certainly have the pulse of the State.

    • cutty77

      @ Bert,
      You must be crazy. Hoppy has the pulse of what JR wants to rant and rave that day. Talk a Homer. I'm about to throw up on this one. lol

      • Bean

        That isn't such a bad idea. How about it Hoppy? Ignore these dillholes who confuse politics with WVU sports. They're doing they're best, bless their hearts.

        would you accept/be interested in a position on such a committee?

        • Hoppy Kercheval

          If nominated, I will accept. If chosen, I will serve. (But I doubt the invitation will come)

          • jeepster

            my endorsement for you,Hoppy! You always have facts and sound reasoning behind your opinions.

  • TD

    The entire state government of West Virginia has an annual budget of $11.6 billion and you're report here says the university has a $2.5 billion annual budget?

    How could they spend THAT MUCH MONEY? No wonder tuition goes up and up and up. Someone needs to come in and cut the spending.

    A good place to start would be with all the administrators.

    • Joe

      I think you'll find if you review are pensions and health benefits makeup a huge chunk. Don't suppose they should be reduced.

      • TD

        again, it's healthcare

        I have no problem with the pensions but I do know there are layers upon layers of administration that could be reduced.

  • wirerowe

    Gaston Caperton for interim President.

  • Charleston,WV

    How about Dr. Edwin Welch of U.C. of Charleston? I have no affiliation with the university or the man himself, but I do know that he has performed well with the growth and development of U..C. That's all I have.

  • Max

    Please...no lawyers!!!!!

  • Former higher ed guy

    I nominate Hoppy Kercheval for the position!

    • Hoppy Kercheval

      I'm not sure I want to take the pay cut.

      • TD

        said in jest Hop, good luck with everything

    • TD

      he's too busy trying to get that 5 hour half time report to fly on Saturdays.

  • Only the Best

    Great commentary on the current situation in higher education. I believe that it is also important that WVU not settle, but, as the truly great Big 12 school that it is, pursue a top notch university president. An individual comes to mind that is currently without a position, has experience at WVU, and an unbelievable resume. IMO WVU needs to spend accordingly to bring Gorden Gee back to WVU. If Huggins and Holgs are worth an average of $3 million a piece, isn't it worth top dollar to hire the best university president possible? If president Clements showed us one thing it was that the position of president is the most valuable position at the university in terms of fundraising, academics, athletics, student life, etc. In your commentary, I believe, you describe the experienced leadership of a 63 y/o Gordon Gee, I just hope WVU will have the balls to go after him.

    • Sam


      I'm not sure if Gee would be willing to come back to WVU, but he is an amazing leader and fundraiser. He would certainly raise the profile of the university.

    • Only the Best

      Sorry, typo Gordon Gee is 69, still the best option out there.

  • Medman

    Having worked in the WVU system for many years and knowing the last eight presidents on a personal level, I have found the search process to be very much dependent on the mix and influence of the BOG more than any other factor. Yes, they form a search committee that is intended to represent a cross-section of various constituencies, have town meetings & presentations by the final candidates, but at the end of the day, the power players on the Board make the selection. Generally the process actually results in a good outcome, but there have been times when the politics override the best interests of our citizens. Let's hope and pray the process will be legitimate this time around.

    • David Kennedy

      Heather Breasch ? In or Out ?