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How to find a university president

Long, confidential search led to new head of Barry University

MIAMI SHORES | An exhaustive, six-month process led to the choice of Mike Allen as the next president of Barry University. The search involved 45 candidates, off-campus meetings and tight secrecy. 

"It had to be confidential," said Greg Greene, chair of the 13-member committee that sifted candidates for the top post at Barry. "We invited presidents, high-level administrators — people who otherwise wouldn’t raise their hands."

First in the five-step process, the search committee interviewed several firms that specialize in finding professionals and chose one. Then the group issued a detailed description of the position and the kind of person it desired.

The list included skills both in administration and leadership, Greene said.  The next president would also have to share the educational philosophy of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, who founded Barry in 1940.

"If you're hunting, you’ve got to know what you're hunting for," Greene said.

From the 45 respondents, the committee whittled the group to 10, all college deans, provosts, presidents and others of similar rank. Those 10 were interviewed over two days at a hotel in Fort Lauderdale, to keep word from getting out prematurely.

The interviews yielded three finalists who then met the full board at Barry in February. They gave presentations on who they were and what they stood for. Then they answered questions.

Greene didn’t divulge the margin of the final vote that selected Allen, but he said it was "resounding."

Allen's appointment sets at least two firsts for the highest office at Barry, as the first male and the first non-cleric. However, neither was an issue in filling the spot, according to Greene. The search committee was simply aware that the ranks of the Adrian Dominicans were shrinking, and so was the pool of possible replacements.

"From the start, I knew we needed a layperson," Greene said. "But the cultural fit was very important to us, whether it was a male or female — embracing the Barry mission and the Adrian Dominican principles."

How well did Allen fit? Greene replied immediately: "He is everything and more than we thought. He's a warm, inviting person. You can feel the energy."

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