Colleges want fundraisers over scholars

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The outgoing president of Randolph-Macon College in Virginia, Roger Martin is an Oxford-trained church historian. His successor is a career fundraiser who brought in about $3 billion for his last two employers.

The appointment last week of Robert Lindgren to lead the small, 175-year old liberal arts college about 15 miles north of Richmond is the latest example of a trend in higher education: Schools are looking for more than a scholar these days when they hire a president.

For years, college presidents - including four of the first six at Randolph-Macon - were often clergymen. Gradually, the pipeline shifted to scholars in such fields as classics and English and, more recently, to scientists. But almost always, candidates were teachers and deans promoted through the academic ranks.

Now as the complexity of running a college and the pressures of fundraising have intensified, schools have become less picky about their presidents' scholarly credentials. Increasingly, they are looking to candidates from the business and fundraising worlds - prompting concern from some faculty about priorities.

In a Chronicle of Higher Education survey of nearly 1,400 four-year college presidents that was released this week, 22 percent described their previous job as nonacademic university vice president or a similar post.

A broader American Council on Education survey found 30 percent of college presidents in 2001 had never held a faculty position, up from 25 percent in 1986. About 15 percent came from outside academia, up from under 9 percent in 1998. Those numbers have likely increased since.

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