The Board of Trustees and Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) are making progress on finding a replacement for President Barry Mills, and have already interviewed some executive search firms and selected the two students who will sit on the search committee.

The Board is currently vetting the firms that will provide the committee with a variety of interested outside candidates, according to Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Elizabeth Orlic.

“Search firms are being interviewed and considered, but to date, there has been no decision about this aspect of the search,” she wrote in an email to the Orient.  

The Board is expected to announce the names of the two students, along with the full membership of the committee, during its meetings next week. Jes Staley ’79 was announced as the chair of the selection committee on April 21, but he declined to comment for this article.
The two student representatives were chosen by a committee composed of BSG executives from both this year and next year; terms for this year’s executives officially ended on Wednesday. Interviews for the committee were conducted earlier this week.

“We were completely blown away by the quality of students who applied to the position,” said Sarah Nelson ’14, president of BSG. “That was really inspiring for us as a committee, and it made our decision really difficult.” 

About 40 students from the Classes of 2015 and 2016 applied, according to Nelson. 
“The goal is to find two students with different backgrounds, who have different involvement on campus, who are part of different organizations, who have seen different parts of how the school works, and who really bring two unique voices to the committee,” Nelson said. 

The exact makeup of the committee remains to be seen. In an email to students on April 14, Chair of the Board of Trustees Deborah Barker wrote that the committee would include “members of the Board, faculty, students, staff, and other alumni representatives.”

George Lincoln Skolfield Jr. Professor of German Steven Cerf, who is retiring at the end of this year, served on the last presidential search committee to replace Bob Edwards, along with Professor of Physics Madeline Msall and Professor of Economics Deborah DeGraff.

At that time, three faculty representatives were elected. Cerf said the faculty worked to ensure that the three major ranks of faculty (assistant professor, associate professor and full professor) and the three major academic divisions (natural sciences, social sciences and humanities) were all represented. 

“I think it’s a once in a lifetime experience,” said Cerf. “There was a loyalty to the institution that meant that this committee sacrificed weekends and travel, poring over folders and interviewing candidates.”

Cerf said that the executive search company used by the last committee helped to narrow the field. 

“We were not beholden to them to hire only from their picks, but at least they gave us a sampling of people who would be eager to do such a position, who had experience in governance of a college and who manifested success,” he said. 

Mills originally chaired that committee. Cerf said that he “certainly wasn’t on [the committee’s] list.” 

“We were so impressed by his leadership on the committee that we asked him to resign so we could consider him as the future Bowdoin president,” Cerf said. 

As the new committee prepares to vet what will likely be a wide-ranging group of candidates, there are many questions to consider. Cerf said that a point of contention in the last search was academic experience. Having made his career as a corporate lawyer, Mills was not the most obvious candidate for a college presidency, but Cerf said that Mills’ Ph.D. and teaching experience in biology made a difference. 

“Our union card is a Ph.D.,” he said. “I heard from dozens of my faculty colleagues that they didn’t care what background this president had, they must have a Ph.D.”