Host: New College Interim President Richard Corcoran wants his million-dollar job to become permanent. WSLR reporter Dania Hefley listened to his job interview yesterday.
Dania Hefley: The three finalists to become the next president of New College of Florida bowed to students, faculty and staff this week. On Thursday, the spotlight was on Richard Corcoran. The former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and Ron DeSantis’ secretary of education tackled questions about his vision for the small university.
In his interview, Corcoran focused on criticizing previous leadership. Due to technical issues, the interview was cut short, and some questions submitted by students were not asked.
Dean of Students David Rancourt asked Corcoran about his style of leadership in the legislature.
David Rancourt: You were effectively the executive of part of the bicameral process. What were your leadership styles and skills to bring your management to the legislature, to the house side of the legislature, when you were speaker?
Right off the bat, Corcoran took this as an opportunity to discredit the previous head of administration.
Richard Corcoran: I would say that leadership is everything, and the problem at New College was leadership. I’ve met tons of the faculty, I’ve met tons of the students. I think it’s a wonderful environment, but the leadership – um, and I you’re trying to be kind – but the leadership was, um, substandard, to say it nicely, and I can give example after example, after example, but I don’t want to bore you. But leadership’s everything.
D.H.: He then quoted Special-Forces Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and a book titled “Good to Great”, that talks about what makes some businesses great. Saying that previous leadership was “substandard”, he used a metaphor from the book.
Screenshot from a promotional video made for Hillsdale College.
R.C.: You have to get the right people on the bus. You have to get the right leaders on the bus. You can get the right people and you could put them on the bus, but if they’re in the wrong seats in the bus you’re not going to succeed either, and so you have to get the right leaders you have to have those right leaders in the right seats on the bus.
D.H.: He made no attempt to distinguish between business and government institutions.
In the next question, Corcoran was asked about how he plans to increase unity on campus. Corcoran talked about his personal experience going to one of the sporting events.
R.C.: I went to the first soccer game, which was a closer one. Now some of the soccer games are far out, they’re all the way across I-75. I’d say, there was – I don’t know, I’m going to throw out a number – 100-plus students, and I would say probably 65 were probably newcomer students, but about 35 or 40 were returning students, and everyone was sitting together.
D.H.: He believes that future sporting events could provide a “sense of comradery” among students.
Corcoran brought up another thought, to reflect on his idea of unity for the campus. He suggested “borrowing traditions” from other liberal arts universities, specifically a gift giving tradition for incoming freshmen and departing seniors. He proposed that the gifts be book-ends, made in the form of the Null-Set symbol, as a “hat tip to what makes New College unique.”
Corcoran was asked about his plans for the Pei dorms. He did not give a direct answer.
When asked about the mold situation, he did not give a potential plan or solution. Instead, he passed blame to the previous administration, and talked about their handling of the New College Foundation’s money. He described when he first heard about the mold issue, and when the first tests occurred. He did not mention why, knowing about the results since May, he waited until two weeks before classes started to close down the Pei dorms and tell students they would be living in a hotel.
The day before, Robert Gervasi, one of the other two finalists, had his interview.
Gervasi holds master’s and doctoral degrees in classics from Ohio State University, in addition to an MBA in marketing from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He talked about his qualifications for the job, and said that he is the best candidate.
Robert Gervasi: What I bring to New College is experience not only in the business world, not only as a classicist, but also as a faculty member who has also served in higher ed administration for 12 years – 12 years as dean, and 14 years as a president, in addition to a couple of years as president of a study-abroad organization, because international education also is a passion of mine. So all those things together, I think, and my experience with smaller schools that prize personal attention are really what attracted me to New College, and what I think makes me the best candidate.
D.H.: Gervasi was most recently interim president at the University of Mount Union, previously president of Ohio Dominican University, and of Quincy University. He sits on the board of directors of the Fulbright Association and chairs its selection committee for the annual Fulbright Prize for International Understanding.
This was Dania Hefley for WSLR News.
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Friday, December 8, 2023
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