Mad Dash to the End: Finding a President


Southern Oregon University President Roy Saigo can often be seen walking around campus, always eager to speak with his students whether it be about the last Raiders game or the weather. This approachability has made him a very popular figure among students. His interim status of two years which began in 2014 is however coming to a close.  With his time at SOU nearing an end many students are asking, who is going to fill his shoes? Who is going to lead SOU when he is gone?

In order to prepare for the future SOU’s board of trustees has formed the Presidential Search Committee to fill the void left by President Saigo.

“Right now everything is on target… it might seem like we are in calm waters at the moment, but there is a lot of paddling going on under the surface,” said Chair of the Presidential Search Committee Lyn Hennion.

Currently the committee is comprised of 15 members, it includes students, SOU faculty and staff, at large members of the Rogue Valley community, and current President of Oregon Tech, Chris Maples. The search committee is narrowing down the number of candidates to around 4 and will present a report to the SOU board of trustees to make the final decision.

Putting faith in an out of state search company, the presidential search committee has charged the Atlanta based firm, Parker Executive Search, with the research of and outreach to potential candidates. Parker Executive has helped with similar searches at the University of Oregon and University of Washington. According to Hennion, Parker Executive will collect candidates and present around 10 to the Search Committee for further deliberation. The search committee will then interview the candidates and present the finalists to the SOU board for final deliberation.

While the timeline for the search is flexible to change based on results, currently the committee expects to interview 4 finalists near the end of May, with the hope of selecting a new president in time for graduation.

“We will provide open study sessions for students to meet and question the final candidates. We will have more open (forums) when the candidates come to campus and we really hope that people will come here and ask them questions and get to know them,” said Hennion stressing the committee’s focus on transparency. The sessions will allow students and community members the opportunity to meet the final candidates and have their opinions heard by the Search Committee. They will be scheduled when the committee has narrowed down the number of candidates, 

”(Parker Executive) said that they would like to find somebody who is really happy in his or her job at this point… but recognizes the opportunity that SOU offers at this time” said Hennion when asked about what kind of president the committee is looking for.

In order to educate and entice potential candidates, Parker Executive and the SOU Search Committee created a report describing Ashland, the University, and the expectations for the new president. Some of the key qualifications listed in the report are as follows:

  • Commitment to sustainability practices and environmental stewardship
  • A record of promoting diversity and inclusion in an atmosphere of civility and mutual respect
  • Appreciation for the vital role of the arts
  • Enthusiasm for athletic competition in the NAIA
  • Fiscal acumen and success in shifting financial landscape

It should be noted that, according to Hennion, President Saigo has agreed to stay on a month to month basis should the Search Committee not find a suitable replacement before Fall term 2016.

“I think all of the comments made by students are definitely reflective of what the student body really wants to see in the next University President,” said ASSOU President Torii Uyehara, “it (is) really nice to see the Campus Community come together and actually give us some solid feedback. I think gauging the student voice is very important.”

Student or community members wanting to have their opinion heard on the presidential search can email the Search Committee at

“Change is the most difficult thing in society. When change does come it creates uncertainty, and people hate uncertainty, because of the lack of stability,” said President Saigo, “We need to continue to focus on the success of our students, because without our students there wouldn’t be any universities, not the other way around. SOU has really turned things around for the better, creating a culture that is positive and focusing on relationships.”