Analysis: What you don’t already know about the candidates for FAU president

Three finalists — George LeMieux, John Kelly and Christopher Earley — were chosen Friday for the position of FAU president after personal interviews with the presidential search committee — the 15 people appointed to recommend the best candidate. After their recommendation, the Board of Trustees — the 13 highest ranking officials at FAU — can approve the recommendation by the committee on Jan. 17. The committee narrowed down a list of 62 applicants to nine candidates and met with them for personal interviews on Jan. 9 and Jan. 10.

Former President Mary Jane Saunders vacated the position last May, resigning three years into her term amid “fiercely negative media coverage” involving a botched $6 million stadium naming deal with a for-profit prison company, according to her resignation letter.

The three finalists are attending open forums with student and faculty on Jan. 14, 15 and 16, but before you meet the candidates in person, you should know what their resumes don’t tell you.

George LeMieux, Former U.S. Senator (R-FL)

Public universities often select politicians as a presidents — University of Florida, Florida State University and Florida A&M University all had politicians as former presidents. Mary Jane Saunders’ predecessor at FAU was former Lieutenant Governor of Florida Frank Brogan, who served as our sixth president for six years — twice as long as Saunders — from 2003 to 2009.

While it’s not uncommon for politicians to seek university presidencies, George LeMieux, a U.S. Senator from 2009 to 2011, has no experience in higher education administration besides a deep appreciation for it, as expressed in the cover letter to his resume. Before Brogan served as lieutenant governor, he was a teacher,  a superintendent in Martin County, and state education commissioner. LeMieux currently sits as chairman of the board of Gunster law firm.

Although he has no background in education, LeMieux does bring fundraising to the table. LeMieux campaigned during the 2012 elections for a position in the Senate. This involved fundraising — a duty detailed in the job description for FAU president. LeMieux was able to raise over $2 million in his campaign for a seat in the Senate.

On the other hand, LeMieux has a rocky political history that may be a disadvantage to a public university aiming to increase state funding, $300 million of which was cut from the State University System in 2012 and restored in 2013.

LeMieux, a Republican, was appointed to his year-and-a-half tenure as Senator by former Gov. Charlie Crist. LeMieux was Crist’s chief of staff at the time and managed his 2006 campaign. When Crist left the Republican Party in 2010 and ran for Senate as an independent, LeMieux endorsed Crist’s competitor, Marco Rubio.

Crist is now in the running for the 2014 election for governor as a Democrat against incumbent Rick Scott.

LeMieux has the fundraising experience, but his lack of experience in higher education and short-lived ties to state leaders won’t get him far in gaining state funding.

John Kelly, Vice President of Economic Development at Clemson University

John Kelly brought the presidential search committee an impressive resume and interview, but he left a few key facts out of his resume.

Kelly comes from Clemson University, which faced a budget cut that slashed state funding from 38 percent to 9 percent, according to Kelly himself in an interview with the presidential search committee on Jan. 9.

The major budget cuts resulted in tuition at Clemson rising 18 percent over five years, according to the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education.

While tuition increases are hard to avoid amid major budget cuts from the state (FAU suffered state budget cuts of $77 million between 2008 and 2013 and tuition increased 60 percent in that time), Clemson University administrators also saw an increase in their salaries.

According to WISTV, Clemson University higher-ups saw their salaries increase up to 61 percent since a decade ago when budget cuts began. While student tuition was continuously hiked, Kelly’s annual salary went up from $170,000 to over $260,000 over the course of 10 years. The highest salary increase went to Provost Dori Helms (61 percent).

Although Clemson saw record budget cuts and tuition increases during Kelly’s tenure at the university, Clemson also established itself as one of the top 25 public universities by U.S. News & World Report for six consecutive years.

One of Kelly’s goals if he’s chosen for the position is to expand the football program and “brand the university” in hopes of increasing donations, as he expressed in his interview with the presidential search committee. Clemson University has a well-known Division 1 football program.

Christopher Earley, Dean of School of Management at Purdue University

There isn’t much Christopher Earley’s resume can’t tell you — all 39 pages of it. Much of which includes academic achievements as well as administrative ones.

Earley comes from a school of about 40,000 students (FAU’s enrollment is a little over 32,000) in Indiana. His experience in higher education administration is limited to dean positions at Purdue, University of Connecticut (School of Business) and University of Singapore (Business School).

During his tenure as dean, Purdue’s MBA program was ranked top 30 in the nation by Forbes.

He spearheaded campaigns that raised $6 million for the Purdue School of Business between 2011 and 2012.