Concordia University's search for a new president has come down to two.
After a year-long process, the school has moved into the final weeks of its selection for a new university president, following the departure of the Rev. Dr. Brian Friedrich. The chairman of Concordia's presidential search committee, Dr. Robert Hermann, said he expects the board of regents to determine its choice for new president to at its September meeting.
Concordia announced on Aug. 16, 2019, that Friedrich was set to leave his position as university president effective Jan. 1, 2020. At the August 2019 board of regents meeting, the Rev. Russ Sommerfeld was chosen to serve as interim president. Sommerfeld served through a semester disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. He told graduating students during the Aug. 1 commencement ceremony that he felt a special connection to the class, considering his interim presidency status.
A search committee consisting of two regents, three faculty members, two staff members and two non-voting members, including the Concordia student body president, was formed to find the university's next president.
Dr. Robert Hermann was named chair of that committee and said the committee conducts most of the leg work throughout the hiring process while being limited by the school's bylaws. Concordia bylaws state that candidates do not apply for the job in a conventional sense. Instead, they are nominated.
“Nominations can come from Concordia faculty, the Concordia Board of Regents, the Concordia University system board and any congregation in the Lutheran Synod,” Hermann said. “Any one of those four entities can nominate an individual.”
Concordia received more than 50 nominations after working with Synod leadership in the winter of 2019-20. The search committee contacted all those nominated at that point and gave them information on the school and the hiring process. More than 20 were willing to stand for nomination after that process. Those names went to a review panel of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, of which Concordia is a member, who approved candidates they thought would be a good fit for the Synod at large.
“They wanted to make sure the president is publicly Lutheran,” Hermann said. “They spent some time on that.”
Out of that group, nine names came back approved. Two of those individuals asked to be removed from consideration. The remaining seven went through vetting through Concordia.
The presidential search committee asked community members what characteristics they wanted to see in a president. There were listening groups for students, faculty, staff and the city of Seward.
“Some of those things that came out were someone who was a good communicator,” Hermann said. “Someone who is relational. Someone who understands the financial aspects of higher education. Someone who can work with an administrative cabinet in a board of regents.”
Information gathering, interviews with faculty, staff and students have been ongoing with the remaining two individuals in the race for Concordia's presidency. Hermann expressed his optimism that a decision would be made by mid September when the board convenes again that a preferred candidate would emerge.