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Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Students make their way around campus on Field House Drive near Lockett Hall during the first day of fall semester classes for LSU students, Monday, August 24, 2015.

An LSU search committee will be choosing among two Louisiana public officials, two military officers, three administrators from other universities and a former adviser to President Donald Trump to be the next leader of the state’s flagship university and its system.

Two graduated from the University of New Orleans, two from LSU. Most claim some connection to Louisiana.

The LSU Presidential Search Committee plans to interview all eight candidates on Monday and Tuesday, then meet on April 30 to decide which finalists to recommend to the LSU Board of Supervisors. The 16 supervisors have final say on who will be president of the LSU system and chancellor of the flagship Baton Rouge campus.


Louisiana Commissioner of Adminstration Jay Dardenne, left, and LSU basketball coach Will Wade show off two special pups at this year's Fur Ball benefiting Companion Animal Alliance earlier this month.

A Baton Rouge native and LSU alumnus, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne is probably the best known of the eight candidates chosen to be interviewed next week.

He was elected twice as lieutenant governor, twice as secretary of state, and served 15 years in the state Senate and three years on the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council. As the state’s chief administrative officer, Dardenne is in charge of overseeing the state’s $40 billion budget and 1,600 employees. He doesn’t, however, have much in the way academic credentials.

Initially, Dardenne expressed interest in being the LSU system president, mostly an administrative job, when the LSU board was talking about splitting the president post from the chancellor post, which is mostly an academic job at the Baton Rouge campus.

“There have been some public comments that the board may consider two positions. Accordingly, I am applying for the single position and plan to urge that, if selected, an alternative structure be considered,” Dardenne wrote Monday in his application letter.

The system has about 45,000 students and, along with the Baton Rouge flagship, includes the LSU AgCenter, medical schools in New Orleans and Shreveport, a law school, regional universities in Alexandria and Shreveport, a two-year institution in Eunice and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

Jim Henderson

UL System President Jim Henderson addressed One Acadiana's monthly luncheon about Compete LA in 2019.

A Shreveport native, Jim Henderson is in charge of the nine state colleges in the University of Louisiana system. The UL colleges — which include the University of New Orleans and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette — have about 91,000 students, roughly double the number at LSU system institutions, and a $1.3 billion operating budget.

“In my current role, the challenge has been bringing disparate units with often conflicting interests together in systemic work for the betterment of our state,” Henderson wrote on his March 14 application.

Laurence Alexander

Laurence Alexander, J.D., Ph.D. Professor and Chancellor University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

A former Times-Picayune and Houma Courier reporter, Laurence Alexander has been chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, a historically Black university, since 2013. Alexander grew up in New Orleans' 9th Ward, graduated from UNO and earned a juris doctorate from Tulane University Law School.

“Over the last 34 years, I have acquired the leadership acumen that I would need to return to my home state and advance the LSU System and the Flagship Campus by working collaboratively with the LSU Board of Supervisors and all of the constituents and stakeholders,” Alexander wrote in his application.

Ron Clark

Ronald (Ron) Clark, M.A. Major General & Chief of Staff United States Indo-Pacific Command, Camp H. M. Smith, Hawaii United States Army


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An Army brat who graduated Leesville High School in 1984, Maj. Gen. Ron Clark graduated in the same U.S. Military Academy at West Point class as Gov. John Bel Edwards. Clark is chief of staff of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command at Camp H.M. Smith in Hawaii. At West Point, he taught prevention of sexual assault and was responsible for training the athletic department on how to handle sexual harassment claims.

“I will help to shape the course of the of the LSU System to address the contemporary challenges of race, gender and income inequality, social injustice, political polarization, and the complications of COVID-19,” he wrote.

Kelvin Droegemeier,

Kelvin Droegemeier, Ph.D. Former Director, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) (2021) United States Federal Government

Kelvin Droegemeier was the director for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for part of Trump’s term. He came to the job after serving two terms — under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama — on the National Science Board.

“I coordinated planning, prioritization, and policymaking for more than two dozen Federal agencies which conduct or support research and development with combined budgets of more than $130 billion,” he wrote.

Droegemeier sees a university as “a place where all scholarly disciplines of a comprehensive research university — those which garner large external funding and those which do not — are valued, resourced, and used to improve and enrich the human condition here at home and around the world.”

Rustin M. Moore

Rustin M. Moore, DVM, Ph.D. Professor and Dean College of Veterinary Medicine The Ohio State University

A West Virginia native and horse surgeon, Rustin Moore was on the faculty of the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine from 1994 to 2006 before returning to The Ohio State University, where he is dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine.

In the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Moore helped organized a rescue and recovery operation of nearly 500 horses. During his career, Moore said he also dealt with academic misconduct, a student’s suicide, and “situations of research misconduct, gross incompetence, grave misconduct, and other inappropriate behaviors and actions of faculty, staff and students.”

Mary Ann Rankin

Mary Ann Rankin, Ph.D. Professor and Former Senior Vice President and Provost (2021) University of Maryland, College Park

Mary Ann Rankin was provost, head academic administrator, for eight years at the University of Maryland until January. Maryland is a public university ranked as 58th best in the nation in the 2021 U.S. News & World Report. LSU comes in at 153.

She graduated from UNO in 1966. Most of Rankin’s career was teaching marine biology at the University of Texas, where she was dean of the College of Natural Sciences for 17 years. Rankin also spent a short stint as CEO for the National Institute for Math and Science.

“To build trust and a community of shared values, I try to communicate often and clearly with university leaders and stakeholders, as well as the whole university community, and to create mutually rewarding team relationships,” she wrote.

Jeff Talley

Lt. Gen. (Ret) Jeffrey (Jeff) Talley, Ph.D. President & CEO The P3i Group, LLC

Jeffrey W. Talley is a retired three-star general with advanced degrees from the University of Oxford, Carnegie-Mellon University and Johns Hopkins University. But he started his academic career at LSU, graduating in 1981 with a degree in forestry and natural resources. As an Army general, Talley served in Korea, Kuwait and Iraq. After leaving the military, Talley went into private business and, in 2020, founded a management advisery and consulting firm, the P3i Group, in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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