By SUSAN JONES
In its first in-person meeting since February 2020, Pitt’s Board of Trustees elected Doug Browning as its next chairman on June 24. He is the first Black person to hold the post.
Minutes after being elected, Browning addressed the biggest issue the board now faces — finding a new chancellor.
“Our overall objective for the search process for our next chancellor is to conduct a robust national search that successfully identifies truly outstanding candidates for our consideration,” he said.
The first priority, he said, is building a “truly outstanding search committee” that includes “a wide range of viewpoints, experience and perspectives.”
Browning said he would use the committees formed during the past two chancellor searches — in 1995 and 2013 — as templates for the composition of the search panel and the calendar the committee follows. The process for replacing Mark Nordenberg with current Chancellor Patrick Gallagher began in July 2013 and took more than seven months. Gallagher announced in April that he plans to step down next summer, after his replacement is found.
The next priority is finding the right search firm, Browning said — one that can “identify prospective candidates, including those that might currently be in leadership positions at other institutions.” A request for proposals has already gone out to find a search firm, and Browning expects to select a company this summer.
He also plans to pick the trustees who will serve on the search committee by late August, and he’ll be talking to Senate Council to identify candidates from Faculty Assembly, Staff Council and student government for the committee.
Browning said it’s important for the committee to get off to a “great start.”
“I would like them to be prepared to move quickly as the semester starts this fall,” he said. During September, he wants the committee to hold town halls and other forums, conduct surveys and put up websites so the Pitt community can help “define the profile of the candidate we seek for chancellor.”
He hopes to have that profile ready for the trustees to review at their meeting toward the end of September. “I know this is aggressive, but it gives us the best chance to enter the market at the right time, with the right committee and with the right search firm and the right processes in place that will benefit from a robust engagement within the University’s main stakeholders.”
In an interview after the meeting, Browning said chancellors Nordenberg and Gallagher were the right people at the right time for the University. Now, the board needs to look at what Pitt needs going forward. “You don’t want to model it after the the person before, you want model it on what do you need (now).”
Browning doesn’t think the budget controversies Pitt is experiencing with the state legislature will impact what candidates apply for the chancellor position, but “it’s something that they need to know and something you will ask a candidate. How would you approach this? How would you manage this?”
Browning said after the meeting that he was surprised when he was selected to be the next chair. He was on the committee to select potential candidates, and he thought they had picked someone, but that person decided they weren’t ready to do the job. Then his name surfaced as a possibility.
“And why would I want to do this?” he said. “Because I love the University of Pittsburgh. … It’s educated three of my favorite people — my nephew, my daughter and me.
“If I, along with the other members of the board, can do anything to make sure this institution provides kids with outstanding educational opportunities and gets them going in the direction they want to go, I’m more than willing to do it.”
Browning is a 1972 political science graduate of Pitt and principal in the independent consulting company DM Browning & Associates LLC, which consults on moving goods and services across international borders. He has been a trustee since 2013 and served on numerous committees.
He served for more than 28 years with the U.S. Customs Service and its successor agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, ending his tenure as deputy commissioner and chief operating officer. He also worked in customs- and trade-related jobs at General Motors Corp., Sandler Travis Trade Advisory Services and Science Applications International Corp.
Being the first person of color to serve in a position isn’t new to Browning, who was the first African-American to be named COO of U.S. Customs.
“First is sometimes OK, provided that whatever you do, you make sure that the path you leave doesn’t make you the last one,” he said. “I will measure my success by whether or not there are other people that are after me. I’m glad to be the first; I’m honored to be the first; I feel it’s a privilege.”
The board has had only one female chair — Eva Tansky Blum, who held the position from 2015 to 2020. Chairs are elected for one-year terms and can be re-elected four additional times.
“When you look across our institution as a whole, diversity is clearly one of those values we accepted, adopted and embraced,” Browning said.
Other meeting highlights
The meeting was led by one of the board’s vice chairs, Mary Ellen Callahan, who has served as interim chair since the death of Tom Richards in October 2021, during his second year as chairman. Callahan has reached the end of her term on the board and said she will “watch from afar” as the board selects a new chancellor.
The hybrid meeting attracted many of the current and emeritus trustees to William Pitt Union, but there were few filling the public seats.
Chancellor Gallagher started his presentation by thanking Callahan and fellow vice chair Louis Cestello for stepping in after Richards’ death. He noted that Richards never was able to attend an in-person meeting as chair because of the pandemic. He spent the bulk of his time discussing the efforts Pitt has made to secure its annual appropriation from the state. (See related story)
Gallagher also noted that Pitt is awaiting the final accreditation report from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. He thanked Joe McCarthy, vice provost for undergraduate studies, for all his work on the required self-study report.
“We had our exit interview, and we are told that Pitt not only met all standards, but exceeded them with flying colors,” he said. “The visiting team for Middle States noted that Pitt is a highly collaborative research university. They commended us 12 separate times for our performance on the self-study process. … And they commended the University four separate times on our performance against the standards themselves. That is not routinely done.”
The board also approved the recommendations of the Governance and Nominating committee for the election and re-election of special, term and alumni trustees. Term trustees have voting rights at meetings of the full Board of Trustees as well as committee meetings. Special trustees may vote only at committee meetings. Traditionally, new members of Pitt’s board join as special trustees.
Elected to Pitt board were:
David C. Frederick: Partner, Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick PLLC. Special trustee
Jeffrey D. Martchek: Former president of Homebuilding Operations, NVR, Inc. Special trustee
Valerie Njie: Former executive director and senior vice president, Bidwell Training Center, and outgoing president, Pitt Alumni Association. Alumni trustee
Dawne S. Hickton: Executive vice president and COO, Critical Mission Solutions. Term trustee (previously served as a Pitt trustee)
Eva Tansky Blum: Former executive vice president and director of community affairs of PNC Bank, and former chair and president of the PNC Foundation. Term trustee
Re-elected to the board were:
Vaughn S. Clagette: Physician, Southeast Permanente Medical Group. Term trustee
James “Jimbo” Covert: Operating partner, Cressey & Company. Member, Pro Football Hall of Fame. Term trustee
Gary T. Brownlee: Advisor at Indiana Small Business Development Center at Purdue University. Alumni trustee
David J. Morehouse: former chief executive officer and president of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Special trustee
SaLisa L. Berrien: Founder and chief executive officer of COI Energy. Term trustee
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-244-4042.
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