Finding New WVU Leader
Outgoing West Virginia University President James Clements is doing one final, important service for WVU. In several ways his tenure provides a blueprint for what the university’s Board of Governors should look for in a successor.
It was revealed Monday that Clements, who has headed WVU since 2009, has accepted an offer to become president of Clemson University in South Carolina. WVU officials said the board of governors will begin looking soon for an interim president.
WVU is thought of as the state university for very good reasons. It is both the premier provider of higher education in West Virginia and the top research institution. Add to that activities such as the WVU Health Sciences Center and the university Extension Service, and the university’s reach and importance are clear.
Leading WVU is among the most important jobs in the state, bar none. Ensuring Clements is succeeded by someone with skill, vision and dedication to our state will be difficult for the board of governors.
Moving the university forward, both in terms of facilities and programs, will be the chief responsibility of a new president. That is a big job, as Clements implied by noting in his farewell letter that WVU “is in the midst of nearly $1 billion in construction projects …”
But keeping a WVU education affordable also is critical. Clements said he worked hard to hold tuition and fees down. The reward for that is that WVU’s tuition remains several thousand dollars a year below the average for comparable institutions.
At the same time, academic quality has been kept high, Clements noted.
Board of governors members have an exceedingly difficult task ahead of them. Influential people with a variety of concerns and priorities – and often, with good ideas – will want to play roles in choosing a new president.
When and where those suggestions conflict with the university’s many-faceted role in serving West Virginians, board members will have to say “thanks, but no thanks.” Again, Clements’ tenure offers an excellent road map in many ways for the search for a new president. Finding someone able to reconcile all the competing interests at WVU and keeping the university moving forward will be important not just in Morgantown, but also throughout West Virginia.