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Corcoran, Pittman Out; Blouin, McCullough, Piedimonte Advance In FSU Presidential Search

Water flows out from a two-tiered fountain and into a large basin. In front of the fountain is a large black plaque that reads, "The Florida State University." Behind the fountain is a brick building.
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Florida State University’s Presidential Search Committee is advancing three finalists for the job

Florida State University’s Presidential Search Committee is advancing three finalists for the job and none are lobbyists, politicians or currently employed with the school.

Heading into Friday and Saturday’s candidate interviews, the search committee received a warning by the school’s accrediting agency that FSU could risk its accreditation if it advanced unqualified candidates or those with conflicts of interest—such as Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, who has a spot on the Florida Board of Governors which oversees Florida’s public universities and has final say over university presidents.

“The concerns raised bySACS [the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools] is that leading roles in higher education should not be treated as political pawns or career rewards for state political leaders lacking other qualifications in higher ed administration,” said search committee member Pam Perrewé during an earlier meeting of the committee to narrow the field of candidates.

Corcoran’s bid drew support from his political friends, but backlash from FSU faculty, students and even alumni. Three out of the last four presidents have been former House Speakers, like Corcoran—notably, current President John Thrasher. But there has also been an increased focus on propelling FSU into the ranks of top-tier research universities by gaining admittance into the AAU, the Association of American Universities, which consists of 66 schools in the United States and Canada. The only Florida school in the AAU is the University of Florida.

To that end, the three finalists for the presidency are from AAU schools.

Dr. Giovanni Piedimonte is currently the Vice President for Research at Tulane University. Robert Bluin is the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost at theUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Richard McCullough is Vice Provost for Research at Harvard University.

While many students who spoke during public comment backed lawyer/lobbyist Sean Pittman's bid for president, FSU student Khamare Garner highlighted a need for an academic who could help FSU raise its academic profile.

“President Thrasher is a proven politician and his connections made it possible for FSU’s meteoric rise in the public university rankings,” Garner told the search committee, “but in order for us to make the next big step and build on President Thrasher’s work, we need an individual who is an educator first, not a lobbyist or a politician. Two candidates come to mind: Dr. Richard McCollough of Harvard University, and Dr. Robert Bluin of UNC-Chapel Hill.”

FSU-Panama City Dean Randy Hanna and Athletics Director David Coburn were not advanced. Nor were University of Maryland Provost Mary Ann Rankin or Texas A&M University President Emeritus Michael Young.

Piedimonte, Bluin and McCullough will be on campus during the week of May 17 at the Turnbull Center for open forums with students, faculty and staff.

Tuesday, May 18
Richard D. McCullough, Vice Provost for Research Harvard University

Wednesday, May 19
Robert A. Blouin, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Thursday, May 20
Giovanni Piedimonte, Vice President for Research Tulane University

The daily forum schedule follows:

8 – 9 a.m. Staff

10:30 – 11:30 a.m. Faculty

1:15 – 2:15 p.m. Community and Direct Support Organizations

3:45 – 4:45 p.m. Students

The search committee will meet May 24 to decide on a nominee to advance to the school’s board of trustees. FSU plans to name a president in early June.

Updated: May 15, 2021 at 6:16 PM EDT
Updated to include candidate interview schedules
Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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