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Higher education

Iowa Board of Regents to pay firm $110,000 in search for new ISU president

AGB Search also helped board hire new UNI leader

Iowa State University President Steven Leath stands for a portrait in Cedar Rapids on March 4, 2015. (Michael Noble Jr./The Gazette)
Iowa State University President Steven Leath stands for a portrait in Cedar Rapids on March 4, 2015. (Michael Noble Jr./The Gazette)

The same firm that helped the Board of Regents hire a new University of Northern Iowa president is going to facilitate the search for a new Iowa State University president — with Steven Leath’s last day coming Tuesday.

The board office on Friday announced it is tapping AGB Search of Washington, D.C., to help its 21-person search committee find prospects to replace Leath, who’s headed to Alabama to become president of Auburn University.

The board is to pay AGB a fixed fee of $110,000 for its help in the process, which is scheduled to officially launch later this month or early next month and wrap by early October. That is more than the $85,000 fee it paid AGB for helping with the UNI search and more than the $95,000 fee the board paid Parker Executive Search in 2011 for helping bring Leath to campus.

Those fixed rates don’t include expenses for things like travel and lodging, according to the contracts. Including expenses, the board paid AGB $129,214 for its help last year in replacing former UNI President Bill Ruud with new UNI President Mark Nook.

That total is above the $110,000 that AGB said costs could reach in its original proposal, and it’s $44,214 more than the base fee. But the recent AGB-aided UNI presidential search received almost unanimous praise from faculty, students and lawmakers for its transparency and collaborative spirit.

That contrasts the 2015 search for a new University of Iowa president, aided by Parker Executive Search for more than $300,000. That hunt landed former IBM businessman Bruce Harreld and sparked widespread criticism — including campus protests and faculty and student votes of no-confidence.

“AGB has a track record of doing great work in assisting in hiring of university presidents,” Board of Regents Executive Director Robert Donley said in a statement Friday. “Naming a university president is one of the top responsibilities of the Board of Regents, and we feel confident that AGB will provide outstanding support in this critical process.”

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Two other firms submitted proposals to help with the ISU search — Academic Search of Washington, D.C., and Greenwood/Asher & Associates Inc. of Miramar Beach, Fla., according to board spokesman Josh Lehman. Both firms, according to their proposals, pitched higher fees at or around one-third the new president’s pay — Leath salary stands at $525,000.

AGB’s duties related to the ISU search include defining goals, developing a position advertisement, identifying prospects, taking nominations and applications, communicating with candidates, facilitating interviews and conducting background checks.

A tentative timeline for the search has the ISU committee whittling its applicant pool to semifinalists in August, bringing finalists to campus by late September and announcing a new president by early October.

Former UNI President and former ISU Provost Ben Allen is to assume the interim presidency when Leath leaves next week. Allen has been on campus for weeks to ease the transition to his temporary leadership.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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