After months of searching, the Southern Adventist University Board of Trustees voted unanimously for Ken Shaw to become the 27th president of the university. The decision came two days after Shaw visited Southern. He will step into his role as president on June 1.
Southern students and employees first learned that Shaw was the top presidential candidate through an email sent on Feb. 17 from Administrative Assistant to the President Joylynn Scott on behalf of the Board of Trustees’ search committee chair, David Jiménez.
According to a press release issued on March 2, Shaw will be the university’s first alum to return as president. He graduated from Southern in 1980 with a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics. Shaw’s wife, Ann, and both of their children also graduated from Southern.
“Ann and I cherish our memories from Southern,” Shaw said in the press release. “Returning to campus is like coming home for us, and we’re delighted to be part of this institution. I really admire that Southern is still fundamentally centered on its mission and on the core values that the institution has been about for 129 years.”
Shaw is the current president of Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, Texas. He also has worked at Florida State University where he held various positions. His experience is one of the reasons he was selected to succeed current President David Smith, according to the press release.
“His track record as a leader in higher education includes increasing enrollment, establishing new academic programs, and improving institutional financial stability,” said the press release.
According to Director of Marketing and University Relations Isaac James, the nature of the presidential search process dictated that neither the search committee nor Shaw could respond to any inquiries made by the Accent prior to Tuesday’s announcement. However, more information on the matter was obtained through a recent issue of QuickNotes and Editorial Manager for Marketing and University Relations Janell Hullquist.
Hullquist said after President David Smith announced his retirement to the Board of Trustees on Oct. 4, 2020, the board set up a 10-member committee to search for a new president. According to a recent issue of QuickNotes, Jiménez, who has served on the board for two non-consecutive decades, was appointed as chair of the search committee in December 2020.
In the QuickNotes issue, Jiménez was quoted saying, “The 10-member committee, all of whom are members of the Board of Trustees, has a diverse make-up of educators, church leaders, and business people, including female and minority representation.”
Jiménez continued by explaining the committee’s search process and timeline. First, the committee hired a professional search firm called FaithSearch Partners. In October and November, FaithSearch interviewed many of Southern’s stakeholders, including university leadership, professors, student leaders, alumni and community members, to understand the important characteristics needed for Southern’s next president. The search firm’s final assessment included these characteristics: Spirituality and the ability to instill a spiritual character in the university’s culture, innovation, being the face of the university to the broader Chattanooga community, providing leadership to fundraising activities and business acumen.
FaithSearch then sent over 800 inquiries to different colleges and universities within the United States and internationally. Forty resumes were received, 15 candidates were interviewed by FaithSearch and seven resumes were presented to the search committee. Five candidates were then interviewed by the committee in early February.
According to Hullquist, it is common practice to have a meet-and-greet with the top presidential candidate as part of the search process. Student leaders met with Shaw on Feb. 25 for a Q&A session. Later that day, participants received an email with a link to provide feedback regarding their impressions of him. The Board of Trustees made their selection for president three days later.