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Carruthers hints at provost choice

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Incoming president might be leaning toward another finalist

LAS CRUCES – Business school Dean Garrey Carruthers does not officially take the helm as president of New Mexico State University until Saturday, but he appears already to have a preferred candidate for the position of executive vice president and provost.

That candidate, according to a presentation to the Faculty Senate leadership committee last week, is one of the other four presidential finalists Carruthers bested when he was selected president by a divided Board of Regents on May 10.

While no official announcement has been made, Carruthers appears to have zeroed in on Daniel Howard, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado, Denver, and a former biology professor at NMSU from 1988 to 2008.

Carruthers declined to be interviewed by the

Journal on Tuesday, saying through a university spokesman that he did not want to discuss pending personnel decisions.

However, of the four other finalists for the NMSU presidency, three said Tuesday they either had no interest in the provost job or had not been contacted about the position. Only one, Howard, declined to comment when asked if he had talked with any NMSU representative about the job of provost, essentially the chief academic officer at the university.

“It’s inappropriate for me to comment on that,” said Howard, adding that he was on vacation in Mexico when reached by phone. “I think ‘no comment’ is the proper way to respond.”

Carruthers is seeking the support of the Faculty Senate to bypass a university policy requiring a competitive search for the next provost, the permanent hire to fill a job vacated by the retirement of Wendy Wilkins. Wilkins retired shortly after the October resignation of former university president Barbara Couture. Jay Jordan, who is currently serving as interim executive vice president and provost, is scheduled to step down by Saturday.

According to a letter sent to members of the NMSU Faculty Senate, Senate Chairman Dennis Clason has called a meeting of the full Senate on June 6 to consider Carruthers’ request.

Carruthers is seeking the full Faculty Senate’s support in advance of making the same request to the Board of Regents, according to draft minutes of the leadership council’s meeting Thursday.

The regents’ next meeting is scheduled for June 21. Regents Chairman Mike Cheney could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

According to minutes of last week’s meeting, Carruthers told Faculty Senate leaders that the provost position is a “critical University administrative post,” that the recently completed presidential search had produced “five outstanding candidates” who had all been vetted, and that a new full-fledged search would not result in a provost hire until next January at the earliest.

“He (Carruthers) asked the Committee if the Committee would support a decision by the Board of Regents to authorize him (to) put aside the usual search procedure on the condition that he hire one of the presidential finalists not hired by the Regents,” according to minutes.

When Carruthers was selected president May 10 with three votes from the five-member board, Howard was the only other finalist to garner support. Regents Javier Gonzales and Isaac Pino backed Howard, who was interim associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences when he left NMSU in 2008 for a similar position at the University of Colorado, Denver.

Gonzales said he has had no discussions with Carruthers about hiring Howard as provost. “But the regents support any measure to give him (Carruthers) the tools and flexibility to select and develop a team to move the university forward,” Gonzales said.

Gary Roemer, an associate professor in the Fishery and Wildlife Sciences Department, said Howard had “extremely strong support” among faculty. Roemer said he believed many faculty members would view the benefits of rapidly hiring someone of Howard’s caliber in a positive light, even if a standard search is bypassed.

During the presidential search process, Carruthers, 73, last month described himself as a “big succession planner” who believed in “grooming your own” to take on additional responsibilities when vacancies arise to create stability in an institution.

“Universities don’t do that so much and they probably ought to change,” Carruthers told reporters last month. “… But universities like searches and searches can be rather expensive to begin with and then, you know, it’s sometimes better to oftentimes deal with someone that you know the track record on for a long period of time.”