The Florida State University (FSU) Board of Trustees today selected Richard McCullough to succeed John Thrasher as the next university president.
In what came down to trustees as a matter of best “fit,” McCullough, vice provost for research at Harvard University, impressed trustees with his warmth, talent and experience.
Trustee Peter Collins made the motion to hire McCollough saying that he could trust FSU to McCullough.
Trustee Kathryn Ballard said, McCullough was a “safe bet” that she liked his “fire in the belly” for FSU.
Trustee Craig Mateer described McCollough as having that “FSU swag.”
Collins said he really connected with McCollough’s story of humble beginnings, starting his education at a community college and rising all the way up to Harvard.
Collins continued, “and he was the only candidate who looked me in the eye and said, ‘I want this job.’”
McCullough beat out two other candidates all acknowledged as exceptional — Robert Blouin, executive vice chancellor and provost of the University of North Carolina and Dr. Giovanni Piedimonte, Vice President for Research, and Professor of Pediatrics, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at the Tulane School of Medicine.
Trustee Eric Chicken said during discussion of the candidates that as the faculty union representative, many faculty had expressed to him their preference of Blouin as the next FSU president. He was described by the board as “oozing competence” and very capable.
Piedimonte was described as a somewhat non-traditional candidate because of his being a medical doctor as well as a researcher and professor.
Trustee Max Alvarez said he admired Piedimonte’s “courage and drive. He was most inspirational. He was not traditional but absolutely would bring FSU to the next level.”
“Charisma, charisma, charisma,” is how Ballard described Piedimonte.
Acknowledging his big personality and impressive life story, several trustees said that Piedimonte was the one with whom they would most like to sit down and share a dinner and glass of wine.
Piedimonte was also described as a “change agent,” “wicked smart” and an “impressive individual.”
But there were concerns that Piedimonte would represent a “different focus” for the university, meaning his goals for changing the medical school from one with a mission of preparing doctors who would work in underserved urban and rural areas to one with more emphasis on research.
One trustee asked, “Are we ready for his challenge?”
In the end, the trustees chose the more traditional, “safer” candidate.
“These were truly, truly three great candidates,” said Trustee Chair Ed Burr. “There were no bad choices here.”
The next step is for the State University System’s Board of Governors to confirm McCullough’s selection at its June 23 board meeting at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg campus.