California State University officials say they are pleased with the caliber of all five finalists being considered to succeed Stephen Horn as president of the system's 35,000-student Long Beach campus.
"I think they're terrific," said Caesar Naples, vice chancellor of faculty and staff relations, who oversaw a four-month nationwide search that considered more than 180 candidates for the post which pays about $100,000 a year. "I think any one of them would do a superb job."
Of the five, only one--John Beljan--is currently working in California. Named CSULB's vice president for academic affairs in 1986, Beljan, 57, is believed by many to have been personally groomed for the presidency by the chancellor's office. Last year, however, he incurred the wrath of some athletic boosters after he recommended dropping intercollegiate football because of a $719,000 deficit in the campus athletic fund.
That deficit, in fact, was one of several issues prompting the CSU Board of Trustees to force Horn to announce his resignation last November after 17 years as president. Other problems included an unexpected 1986 campus deficit of more than $1 million that required some budget cutbacks and a $900,000 emergency bailout loan from the chancellor's office.
Although Horn's resignation does not officially take effect until July 1, he has been on leave since early February campaigning for the congressional seat being vacated by Daniel E. Lungren, the governor's appointee for state treasurer.
Before moving to CSULB two years ago, Beljan, a surgeon, was special adviser to the president of Hahnemann University in Philadelphia, and dean of its School of Medicine. From 1966 to 1974 he served as a faculty member at the UC Davis medical school.
The only other candidate with strong California ties is John Brazil, 42, who became the youngest president in the history of the 6,000-student Southeastern Massachusetts University in North Dartmouth when he took over the top spot on that campus in 1984. Before that, Brazil spent 11 years at San Jose State University beginning as a lecturer in English and working his way up to interim academic vice president and associate academic vice president for undergraduate studies.
"I have experience in the (CSU) system," Brazil said, "but I've been outside it too, so I have some other perspective."
The other finalists are Thomas P. Wallace, 52, who since 1986 has been chancellor of Indiana-Purdue University in Fort Wayne, a state-supported institution with an enrollment of about 10,600; Sherry Penney, 51, vice president for academic programs, policy and planning since 1982 for the State University of New York in Albany, the nation's largest single university system with an enrollment of about 370,000; and Curtis McCray, 50, a Chaucerian scholar and former English professor who since 1982 has been president of the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, with an enrollment of about 7,000.
"Long Beach is very attractive," said McCray, who previously was provost and vice president for academic affairs at Governors State University in Park Forest, Ill. "It's reflective of the general vitality of California . . . (which) has really been a standard for public higher education. This is an opportunity to serve at one of the state's finer institutions in a vital economic and cultural center."
Wallace, who has a doctorate in physical chemistry from Clarkson University in Canada, previously served as vice president for academic affairs and a professor of chemical science at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., while Penney was an associate provost at Yale University and an associate in higher education for the New York State Education Department.
In selecting the five finalists, Naples said, a search committee consisting of CSU trustees, faculty members, students, staff, alumni and members of the Long Beach business community was looking for "solid academics with substantial executive and administrative experience" as well as "a track record of working well with the surrounding community with a good grasp of educational issues in a public university context."
Beginning the week of May 9, he said, each candidate, accompanied by members of the search committee, will spend a day on the CSULB campus meeting with students, faculty members, staff and administrators. After the visits, Naples said, the committee will prepare a report on each candidate to be submitted to the CSU Board of Trustees, which will interview the finalists at its meeting May 17 and select a president the same day.
"What we have is five very different, but all supremely qualified, candidates," Naples said of the contenders.