By Greg Jordan
West Virginia University will soon begin laying the groundwork to find both an interim and permanent president who embrace the university’s vision for the years ahead — just like outgoing leader Jim Clements.
WVU Board of Governors Chairman Jim Dailey said procedures are in place to form a search committee for an interim president “in the immediate near future.”
When Mike Garrison announced his resignation as WVU’s president in June 2008, an interim president was named a month later and served until Clements took over in June 2009.
Clements was named Clemson University’s 15th president on Monday.
“With every little setback, you obviously move forward,” Dailey said.
In its next president, the board will undoubtedly look for someone to advance its goals the same way Clements did.
Dailey said Clements understood how a public land-grant university changes lives “and he has brought people together to make that mission a very powerful one on our campus.”
He also called him a “natural born leader.”
“Since the hiring of Jim Clements in 2009, West Virginia University has experienced unprecedented success in many areas — private giving, enrollment, academics, research funding, health care, community service, economic development and so much more,” Dailey said.
During Clements’ tenure, the board endorsed the university’s vision for the year 2020 that included strengthening academic programs and expanding student diversity.
“For the first time in a long time, everybody is on the same page and striving to accomplish what needs to be accomplished,” Dailey said. “Because of Jim’s leading, I think it will make us better and bigger as far as a unified group, as far as succeeding.”
The university is in the midst of nearly $1 billion in construction projects on campus, its university health system and student housing. In a statement released to the WVU community on Monday, Clements said the projects “are building a better future for the generations that follow us.”
Most financing for current projects will come from bond issues and donations.
The vision includes new buildings for engineering research, agriculture sciences and sports sciences, an addition to the law school, a new art museum, a new greenhouse and 200 added parking spots on the Evansdale campus.
WVU Hospitals is adding 114 beds at Ruby Memorial Hospital and WVU Healthcare is building an outpatient center near Morgantown.
Last month the university broke ground on a new baseball stadium.
A public-private housing complex that will cater to nontraditional students is expected to open next fall. WVU also is planning a housing and retail complex in Morgantown’s Sunnyside section that will cater to students of a more traditional age.
Enrollment at the Morgantown campus hit a record 29,707 students in fall 2012. This year’s enrollment of 1,802 international students is a record and is up 10.5 percent from last year.
In June 2012, Clements and WVU Foundation officials announced the university’s most ambitious fundraising campaign. With two years left in the “State of Minds” campaign, donations have reached 91 percent of the goal of $750 million.
WVU also announced last year that it had used up $35 million in available matching research funds allocated by the state in 2008. WVU’s research program has resulted in 160 separate endowments resulting in $70 million in combined funds. The money is invested with the interest used to fund various programs and initiatives set up by donors.
In 2010, Clements hired athletic director Oliver Luck and together they ushered in the university’s affiliation from the Big East Conference to the Big 12 last year.
Next April, the university will undergo a reaccreditation process by a national accreditation body. WVU’s last accreditation was in 2003-04.
When an accreditation team reviewed the school in 1994, one of the criticisms was that leadership turned over too frequently.
The next president will be WVU’s third since David Hardesty left in September 2007 after 12 years.
Garrison spent less than a year in the job, resigning in 2008 in the wake of a scandal involving an unearned master’s degree awarded to Gov. Joe Manchin’s daughter.
Clements said he wasn’t looking to leave WVU, but when Clemson offered him a job, “this is an opportunity that we couldn’t pass up.”
Dailey understands the move. Clements’ teenage daughter, Grace, the youngest of his four children, was born with apraxia, a neurological speech disorder. Clements’ wife, Beth, has several relatives near Clemson.
“With his wife having significant family down there, it really will help them in terms of their caregiving of their very special child,” Dailey said. “That weighs a great deal on what’s important to them.”