MARTINSBURG - It won't be easy finding a replacement for outgoing West Virginia University President Jim Clements, but the school's board of governors members have already held an emergency session to discuss his resignation and will meet again today in a special meeting aimed at selecting an interim president, said BOG Chairman Jim Dailey II.
The 10 a.m. meeting will be held on campus at Stewart Hall, while the next regularly scheduled meeting - the 17-member board routinely meets six times annually- is set for Dec. 20.
Since the university's hiring process is inclusive, it takes time and certain procedures have to be followed before another step can be taken, Dailey said.
Clements, who spent nearly five years in Morgantown before publicly announcing his resignation Nov. 11, is leaving to become president at Clemson University and plans to be in his new South Carolina post in January.
He will be present for WVU's graduation ceremony on Dec. 20 but also plans to take some personal time after that, Dailey said.
There's no time to waste since the nationwide search could take months and officials hope a new president will be in place for fall 2014, he said.
"For example, once we get the interim president on board, we have procedures and policies we have to follow in order to create a search committee so that we can then search for a permanent president. It is definitely a very formalized process," said Dailey, a WVU alumnus and owner of W. Harley Miller Contractors Inc.
The search committee will "bring in folks from all walks of life at the university, including faculty, students, staff and alumni because all of these interests need to be considered," he said.
Dailey said Clements told him about his decision on Sunday and an emergency meeting was held Wednesday in Morgantown. It wasn't a total surprise, however, because Clements had kept Dailey and other board members informed about "numerous contacts from other universities across the country," he said.
"So I was aware that Clemson had been seriously looking at him, and I give him a lot of credit for that," Dailey said.
While the interim president can either be an in-house candidate or someone without ties to the university, the successful candidate is barred from applying for the president's position, he said.
Search committee members may choose to use a professional organization that specializes in providing potential candidates or simply consider applicants who come to them directly or from other recommendations.
He said both the interim and new presidential selection must also be approved by the state Higher Education Policy Commission. State approval is also required in terms of the new president's salary. When he was originally hired, Clements' salary was $450,000 but was later increased to $775,000, Dailey said.
Salary negotiations will be conducted with the successful candidate, he said.
Dailey, a seven-year BOG member who was elected chairman in July, said he understands Clements' reasons for leaving and supports the move because it will be good for his family. The new job means Clements will be close to his wife Beth's family and that will be an advantage for his youngest daughter, who has special needs, Dailey said.
In a letter to the WVU community, Clements said he wasn't looking to leave Morgantown but "after much thought, reflection and prayer, Beth and I decided that this is an opportunity that we couldn't pass up."
It's especially hard to see Clements leave because of what he's accomplished, a list that includes "unprecedented success" in private giving, enrollment, academics, research funding, health care, community service and economic development, Dailey said.
Ironically, his success has already been noticed at the national level- with other college and university leaders calling to "find out the secret to WVU's success," he said.
That kind of positive feedback may actually help in finding a new president, according to Dailey.
"Although it does take a while, it's important that everyone knows the university will still be operated properly during this time and continue with the work that Jim Clements did because he has taken us to new heights," he said.
Thanks to his leadership, "everyone is now working on the same page, working together hand-in-hand and we are really moving forward. We don't want to lose that momentum," Dailey said.