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WVU picks Clements as next president

March 06, 2009

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -- James P. Clements, a 44-year-old college provost from Maryland who calls himself a "get it done" kind of guy, will become West Virginia University's 23rd president, sources involved in the selection process told The Associated Press on Friday.

The sources requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the results of the search before the official announcement. A press conference to introduce the president was scheduled for later in the day, after the Higher Education Policy Commission approves the Board of Governors' selection.

Clements, chief academic officer at Towson University, will take on a school that is trying to move beyond a year and a half of scandal and take its research and reputation to the next level.

The presidency came open last summer when former President Mike Garrison resigned over a master's degree scandal involving Gov. Joe Manchin's daughter, Mylan Inc. executive Heather Bresch. Garrison had been on the job less than a year. Others involved in the scandal either left the university or were demoted.

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Clements won the job over Gregory H. Williams, the 65-year-old president of City College of New York.

Board Chairwoman Carolyn Long did not identify the new president after a unanimous voice vote Friday afternoon, describing the board's selection only as "Candidate 9."

The board reviewed hundreds of comments submitted by faculty, staff and others, then had a "good and healthy discussion" over the merits of each candidate that lasted more than three hours, she said.

Clements, a first-generation college graduate and grandson of a coal miner, had made a point of telling WVU faculty and staff on Thursday that he'd never planned to leave Towson and had turned away other suitors.

"We're not looking," he told one group, nodding at wife Beth. "This is where we want to be."

The board had moved up its hiring timetable by several weeks, saying both candidates were highly marketable in the competitive higher education marketplace.

While the Faculty Senate did not endorse a candidate, the incoming president and vice president of the Student Government Administration sent the Board of Governors a letter backing Clements, the father of four children ages 8 to 16.

But Clements appeared to connect with the faculty as well, talking in one forum about the need to improve the university's research work by hiring more instructors, reducing student-teacher ratios, recruiting more graduate students and boosting funding. He also assured them he was a listener and educator first.

"I never miss a senate meeting on my campus," Clements said. "I need to know the issues, and I like the interaction."

Clements also said he sees leadership at a university as an inverted pyramid, with him at the bottom.

"Faculty," he said, "drive the institution."

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