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WLU Presidential Search Committee focusing on engaging search firm, taking next step in process

WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. — Members of the West Liberty University Presidential Search Committee have developed a ‘roadmap’ in recent weeks to find the institution’s next leader, according to committee chair Tom Cervone.

The committee first met on Sept. 13 and meets every other week, most recently on Monday, with a mission to build the process to hire West Liberty’s 38th president in 2023.

In August, West Liberty’s Board of Governors (BoG) voted to not extend the contract of current President W. Franklin Evans when it expires Dec. 31. The initial timeline discussed by the board and committee indicated a national search would end when the application process ended Nov. 1.

Cervone, a 1975 graduate of West Liberty, said that timeline was ‘a little too ambitious’ based on the committee members not determining if they’d engage a search firm. The decision has been made in recent weeks that the committee will engage a search firm. Cervone noted that its the first time in recent memory that there will be a search firm adopted in the process of finding a West Liberty president.

The Request for Proposal (RFP) for Presidential Candidates is now available to professional search firms, the university stated. This RFP is being handled by WLU’s Director of Purchasing Patrick Kelly and a subcommittee which includes Search Committee members Dolan, Kettler and McPherson, along with WLU Chief Human Resource Officer Diana Harto. Bids will be due at 10 a.m. on Nov. 2.

Tom Cervone

The application process for president will not be open until a search firm is adopted, and Cervone expects an interim president to be named in the early part of 2023.

“We’re looking more into spring,” Cervone said of naming a new permanent president. “We will have, I hope, someone who has agreed to serve in this capacity. It may take a while for the logistics to work but we’re looking to get someone in as quickly as possible without compromising the process.”

West Liberty is searching for its next leader after only a two-year tenure from Evans, who was named West Liberty’s 37th president and the first African-American in that role in Nov. 2020.

Evans’ troubles began at WLU in Oct. 2021 with plagiarism allegations in multiple instances. Later in the month, the board considered whether to terminate Evans but decided not to in a 5-7 split vote. During that Oct. board meeting, the board did vote unanimously to place Evans under disciplinary supervision.

The Board of Governors then publicly censured Evans last November.

Cervone, who was not on the BoG when Evans was hired, said he was thrilled with the initial hire. On Tuesday, he called Evans a good steward of resources and someone that has a different management style. He also said Evans’ missteps were ‘unfortunate.’

“I like Dr. Evans very much. I think he is a very smart man. But there has been this situation that has been very difficult for the university and campus to manage,” Cervone added.

He continued, “In my early conversations with (HEPC) Chancellor Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker, I think we both agreed the campus is fragile right now. It needs someone to come in and help evaluate what has happened the last couple of years and why we are where we are.”

Cervone added the committee wants the next person to build consensus and trust on campus – citing a current reluctance to trust upper administration on campus. He noted longevity may be another key for a candidate.

“We’re hoping that we can get someone in here that fits, celebrates and embraces the community. Not just the campus community but the West Liberty community, Wheeling community and getting involved,” Cervone said.

The BoG members on the search committee include Cervone, board chairman Rich Lucas, Jack Adams, Ryan Glanville, Richard Carter, Michael Baker, Jason Metz, Arlene Brantley, Jamie Evick, Sydney Burkle, and Stephanie Shaw. Board member David H. McKinley is the vice chair.

Cervone is currently the Managing Director of the Clarence Brown Theatre/Department of Theatre at the University of Tennessee Knoxville.

“I have a real soft spot in my heart for everything West Lib. I want to make sure, we all want to make sure, we get the best leader in place to get us up and going again,” Cervone said.

The scheduled meetings of the Search Committee that remain include the following days and times:

  • 6 p.m., Monday, Nov. 7, 2022
  • 5 p.m., Monday, Nov. 21, 2022
  • 6 p.m., Monday, Dec. 5, 2022
  • 6 p.m., Monday, Dec. 12, 2022




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