This past May the John Carroll University Board of Directors voted to renew the Rev. Robert Niehoff’s contract as president of the University. This renewal will extend through 2015, as a president’s term is five years.
The Rev. Niehoff, in an e-mail sent to the JCU community, said that he has “gratefully accepted this honor and challenge.” The Rev. Niehoff also said that he was proud of his many achievements over the last five years, including a long-term plan for the University and acknowledged that these are tough times and sacrifices have been made.
When it comes time for the BOD to determine whether or not they will offer the current president another term, the first step is bringing in an outside consulting firm for higher education, according to Jonathan Smith, vice president and executive assistant to the president.
Lisa Debick, administrative assistant to the president, said that Zedie Bowen and Timothy Sullivan from the nationally recognized consulting firm Association of Governing Boards were brought in to conduct an extensive evaluation of the president’s performance. The consultant Zedie Bowen has no relation to JCU’s Associate Academic Vice President for Academic Programs and Faculty Diversity, Lauren Bowen.
Members of the BOD, faculty and students who sat on BOD committees were on a list of potential interviewees given to the firm and they made the decision on who to interview from that list. However, it was not made clear to the Rev. Niehoff who was interviewed by AGB, so he could not provide that information.
Smith said, “Those with a long-term view of the University [were interviewed] so they could put it [Rev. Niehoff’s job performance] in context.”
Once this comprehensive evaluation is completed, it is turned over to the BOD for their decision. There are 44 members of the BOD, many of whom are successful JCU alumni or clergy members, and it takes a simple majority to retain a president. However, “Father got overwhelming support [from the Board],” said Laurie Frantz, assistant to the president and secretary to the board of directors.
Smith offered an explanation for the Rev. Niehoff’s strong support. “In this case it was a fairly easy decision [for the BOD] to make,” Smith said. “Father has managed the University through difficult times and is very much a strategic thinker. The Board can appreciate that.”
He added, the Rev. Niehoff “has an emphasis on strategy and planning which takes a lot of the guess work out of where the University is going.”
While Smith did acknowledge that there may be instances in which a BOD might consider keeping on a president simply to avoid the stressful transition on a University, he made it very clear that that played no role in this decision.
“The president has a very good working relationship with the board,” he said.
“Board members are crucial partners in setting Carroll’s future strategic directions,” said the Rev. Niehoff. “Their concern for the quality of learning and campus community at Carroll is inspiring to me.”
According to Smith, the BOD did not consider any other candidates for president.
Despite the fact that the Rev. Niehoff received such strong support from the BOD, there are still areas where he believes he can improve. The areas in need of improvement include communicating more effectively JCU’s uniqueness to the outside world.
“After 123 years of student, faculty, staff and alumni educational excellence, John Carroll should be better known for what it is—a premier institution offering a Catholic Jesuit, liberal arts based, university education to talented and successful high school students who want to achieve more,” the Rev. Niehoff said. “The intellectual rigor of a John Carroll education and the quality of our dedicated faculty are things we can all celebrate.”
The Rev. Niehoff, inaugurated in Oct. 2005, is JCU’s twenty-fourth president.