The person tapped by Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts to be its next president has announced he will not accept the position. The decision could set back the hiring process by months.
Greg Summers has withdrawn his acceptance to become MCLA’s 12th president because of recent family health concerns that make him unable to relocate. He is currently provost and vice president of academic affairs at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. MCLA Board of Trustees Chair Tyler Fairbank says Summers contacted him earlier this week.
“With great regret he expressed that decision that he had to come to,” Fairbank said. “It was a surprise to all of us. Unfortunately these things in life do happen. We were super excited to have Greg.”
Citing his family’s privacy, Summers declined to discuss the withdrawal with WAMC.
The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education approved MCLA’s selection of Summers as its next president last month, following a search process lasting more than half a year. Nearly 60 people applied. Cynthia Brown will continue as interim president for the time being.
“We are on a strong forward path,” Brown said. “We have a good strategic plan and plenty of initiatives under way. The academic year is continuing on its chartered course. In a few weeks we’ll be celebrating commencement and winding up the academic year. So our focus is really on the future. I am happy to continue to provide leadership and to provide what I can in terms of direction for the campus together with the board.”
Currently in her sixth year at MCLA, having previously served as vice president of academic affairs, Brown says she has thought about seeking the presidency full-time. Summers had already signed an agreement with the college and was expected to start this July. With the information being only a few days old, Fairbank estimates the next president would start in the summer of 2016.
“Our big picture thinking right now is yes, we do open the search back up, it’s a matter of when,” Fairbank said. “That’s the natural next order of things. In terms of the timing, we have to decide when is the best time to get that going.”
Fairbank adds the search committee, board of trustees and school leadership gained valuable experience during the previous exhaustive search. Summers was among two other finalists – Paula Krebs, a dean at Bridgewater State University and Jane McBride Gates, provost at Western Connecticut State University. Gates removed herself from consideration before the trustees’ final vote. Fairbank doesn’t believe MCLA will go back to the previous search. Fairbank says Summers was deeply apologetic and that MCLA’s board carries no ill will, wishing him the best.
“MCLA continues to be a tremendous opportunity for somebody who does want to help us get to the next level,” Fairbank said. “We’re going to have to hit the pause button for a little bit and figure out what the path forward looks like. I’m entirely confident that we will find someone out there who will help us to have another exciting opportunity to equal to or even greater than we had anticipated with Dr. Summers.”