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LSU students walk on campus Thursday afternoon, March 12, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La.

The LSU committee looking for a new leader for LSU’s universities, two-year college, agriculture center and medical schools on Friday chose a headhunting firm out of Atlanta to find candidates for the top job.

The group chose Parker Executive Search, largely because of the firm’s history of finding higher education leaders in the South.

The LSU Presidential Search Committee then voted without objection to begin contracting the firm, which bid to do the work for $125,000 fee plus expenses, which it hopes to hold to $15,000. The LSU Foundation, an affiliated agency that raises private donations for the university, will pay.

LSU General Counsel Winston G. DeCuir Jr. said he hopes to have the contracts signed and Parker on board before the committee meets again on Nov. 20.

LSU is hiring the firm to find, vet and recruit candidates to become president of the LSU System/Chancellor of LSU A&M, the flagship campus in Baton Rouge. Tom Galligan, who also is applying for the job, has sat in as president/chancellor since F. King Alexander resigned in December to go to Oregon State University.

Mary Leach Werner, the former LSU Board chair, said the search committee interviewed seven firms and narrowed the selection down Parker and two others: WittKieffer and Anthem Executive. All three firms offered to the work for roughly the same price.

WittKieffer, of Oak Brook, Ill., is one the world’s largest executive search firms and has plenty of staff and resources.

Anthem Executive, of Spring, Texas, is much smaller but specializes in higher education recruitment.

Werner said any of the three would handle finding a diverse range of possibilities, not just women and minorities, but executives from research and business communities, rather than rely on the usual pool of current and former university administrators – and do so in the less than six-month timeframe LSU has set.

“It’s really depends on what flavor” committee members like best, she said.

The committee felt the most comfortable with Parker, whose president is a woman, because the firm has worked extensively in the South, understand the political dynamics, and have convinced diverse candidates to take jobs at a predominantly white male campuses. The firm helped find Mississippi’s Higher Education Commissioner, the President of the University of Tennessee System and chancellor of University System of Georgia.

“Parker knows how to get to LSU when they get off at the airport,” said Verge Ausberry, LSU Executive Deputy Director of Athletics and a member of the search committee.


Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.