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University of Wyoming narrows presidential search to three finalists

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UW Campus

Students leave William Robertson Coe Library in October on the University of Wyoming campus in Laramie. The school is searching for a new president.

The three finalists to become the next president of the University of Wyoming will come to campus and potentially Casper next week, a spokesman said Monday afternoon.

The exact details of the event are still somewhat up in the air, said UW spokesman Chad Baldwin. The tentative plan is have the three finalists appear in successive days Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week. They’ll attend events with students, faculty and staff, all of which will allow for questions.

Baldwin said there’s also a tentative plan to bring the finalists to the UW-Casper, which is located on Casper College’s campus.

The names of the finalists have yet to be released, though Baldwin said they will likely be announced between Monday afternoon and Wednesday. Up until now, applicants have been kept entirely confidential.

The only known candidate for the president’s post is acting UW president Neil Theobald, who was promoted from his role as the university’s CFO after Laurie Nichols’ contract expired in June. However, it’s unknown whether he is a finalist.

Theobald previously ran Temple University in Philadelphia.

Baldwin said the board will conduct face-to-face interviews with the finalists at the end of February, with a public announcement and vote to be held potentially in the first week of March. The new president would likely take over at the beginning of UW’s fiscal year on July 1, when Theobald’s interim run is also set to end.

The three finalists were selected by the school’s board of trustees. The names were part of a group of semifinalists forwarded to the board by a search committee, which has been working since September and spent the first weeks of February narrowing the field. Several dozen people applied, officials previously said.

The search committee, led by former trustee John MacPherson, included former Gov. Matt Mead and various representatives from around campus and Wyoming. The group was aided by a Georgia-based search firm and former UW president Dick McGinity. The board initially budgeted $600,000 to hire the search firm, though Faculty Senate chair Ken Chestek said in September that the figure was high and didn’t reflect what the firm would actually be paid.

The search began after the sudden announcement last March that Nichols would not continue as president. It was later revealed that the board had already negotiated a three-year renewal of Nichols’ contract, which included a sizable raise for the widely popular president. Unbeknownst to the state — and, Nichols says, to her — a private law firm had quietly investigated her at the board’s direction in the weeks before the March 25 announcement. The inquiry began after the board became aware of two complaints of verbal abuse made against Nichols between February 2018 and February 2019.

With the dismissal of Nichols, the university is looking for its fifth president in six years. The high turnover has not gone unnoticed; in September, Gov. Mark Gordon released a pointed letter to the board that called the presidential revolving door a “black eye” and advised the board to avoid hiring a “familiar face.” He later said he thought the Nichols situation could’ve been handled better.

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Education and Health Reporter

Seth Klamann joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 and covers education and health. A 2015 graduate of the University of Missouri and proud Kansas City native, Seth worked for newspapers in Milwaukee and Omaha before coming to Casper.

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