The search for a new Emporia State president is under way after Michael Lane unexpectedly announced his resignation in May.
Lane, who was selected by the Kansas Board of Regents as Emporia State’s 15th President, began his presidency Nov. 1, 2006. His last day as president was June 30, making his tenure a bit more than four and one-half years.
The Kansas Board of Regents named H. Edward Flentje, a professor at Wichita State University’s Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs, as interim president. An ESU presidential search committee, headed by former regent Deryl Wynn, is expected to complete its work by the end of the year.
Lane announced his resignation via a mass email to campus.
“When I interviewed with another campus over fall break last year, it was because I was nominated, and I was curious about the opportunity on a campus that was private,” Lane wrote in the BuzzIn annoucement. “The act of visiting the other campus, however, has caused many to question my commitment to ESU.”
Lane was named a finalist in the presidential search at Millikin University in Decatur, Ill. last fall, but ultimately withdrew his name from the running.
Vanessa Lamoreaux, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Board of Regents, declined comment Wednesday when asked by The Bulletin on whether Lane was asked to resign. ESU Provost Tes Mehring said the administration had no indication of Lane’s decision to step down prior to the BuzzIn announcement.
Mehring said Lane’s presidential candidacy at another campus may have been a suggestion that Lane was planning to move on from ESU, but her personal belief is that Lane was not necessarily looking for employment elsewhere.
“I think that happened to be an opportunity that came along that he was heavily recruited for,” Mehring said. She added that Lane may have been attracted to the culture of a private school over a public institution.
When asked for an interview with The Bulletin, Lane responded the following in an email on Aug. 9: “I am not available for this week or most of next week due to off campus commitments. I am happy to discuss the future. My press release gave all the information on my resignation.”
The Bulletin was unable to obtain an interview with Lane before press time on Wednesday.
Last week Lane moved out of the presidential residence at 1522 Highland, where he lived free of charge under his contract with ESU.
Currently, Lane is on assignment with the Kansas Board of Regents but will begin his duties as a professor of accounting and information systems in January 2012. His wife, Peggy Lane, is chair of the department.
“Personally, I believe Dr. Lane is brilliant, and I hope that his successor would be brilliant as well,” Mehring said. “I’ve been here 30 years so I know a lot about our institution, and I would frequently be very impressed with his breadth and depth of knowledge… whoever follows his footsteps are going to have to know their stuff.”
The Presidential Search Committee is comprised of 19 members representing groups within ESU and the Emporia community, including past president of ASG, Jonathan Rivers, and current ASG president Ashley Vogts. The committee will identify three to five finalists who will then be recommended to the Kansas Board of Regents for final selection.
“The students are the life blood of the campus,” Rivers said. “For that reason I believe having their perspective, thoughts, questions and concerns front and center is incredibly important.”
Deryl Wynn, chair of the committee, said the national search is currently focused on finding candidates who fit the criteria set forth and that the committee is not looking for those who simply want to build their resumes.
“My goal is to get the right person,” Wynn said. “We want serious candidates… this is a unique place – anyone could be successful here.”
Wynn – a former regent and a Kansas City, Kan., attorney – also said that the committee is looking for a president who can make a long-term commitment to ESU and will value its diverse student population.
Mehring said the new president needs to have academic credentials as well as an understanding of what ESU is all about and should respect faculty and staff.
“I think all institutions want a president who can literally walk on water,” Mehring said.
Wynn said the goal is for the regents to announce a new president by January and that ESU is being presented to candidates as a “worthwhile, Midwestern university with a long history of success in several disciplines.”
“When prospective candidates begin to step onto the campus in the fall, I would highly encourage students to ask questions, make comments, voice their concerns and do whatever they can to stay informed and knowledgeable about how the process is moving forward,” Rivers said. “These candidates need to know just exactly what Emporia State University students care about.”
When he took over as interim president in July, Flentje already had a history with Emporia State.
A 1964 education-mathematics and physical science graduate and member of the Alpha Kappa Lambda fraternity at the time, Flentje said he was highly influenced by the atmosphere and faculty at the university.
“I care about Emporia State,” Flentje said. “The university faculty and staff here made a difference in my life.”
Flentje was also a member of the 2010 class of Distinguished Alumni and has been a professor at Wichita State University’s Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs since 1979. He also served as interim city manager for the City of Wichita in 2008 and served in the cabinets of two Kansas governors, Robert Bennett and Mike Hayden, and worked for U.S. Senator Jim Pearson.
Currently, Flentje is on a leave of absence from WSU, but he will continue to teach a Wednesday night class while he serves as ESU’s interim president. Flentje will not be a presidential candidate but will return to WSU once his commitment to ESU is fulfilled in January.
Flentje said that he would like for faculty, staff and students to know that he is “one of them.”
“Most of my experience over the last 30-some years has been as a faculty member, and hopefully I understand a little bit about that role and the importance of it,” Flentje said. “I came here 51 years ago, a small town kid… and this was a good environment for me, a very hospitable environment.”
Flentje’s full resume can be found on the Kansas Board of Regents’ website at kansasregents.com.