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NMSU holds final listening session for presidential search

By Vanessa de la Viña, vanessa@kvia.com
Published On: Jan 14 2014 08:58:54 PM CST
LAS CRUCES, N.M. -

New Mexico State University asked what the community wants in the next university president and hundreds answered.

Over the last month, the Board of Regents has hosted a number of listening sessions across New Mexico to gather public input.

On Friday, about 50 people were at the last session at the Corbett Center on campus.

Those in attendance were passionate about finding the right person for the job; one of them even broke into tears.

Most people who commented seemed to agree the next president needs to be a great communicator.

They want that leader to be able to connect with the community and jump-start fundraising and student enrollment.

Several commented that they have an ideal role model in mind: former NMSU president Dr. Gerald Thomas.

Thomas served as president from 1970 to 1984.

Our New Mexico Mobile Newsroom spoke with Thomas' daughter, Peggy Vanlandingham. She agrees the next president should be someone like her father.

"My father had a passion for the university, for Las Cruces, and for the state. That's how the next president should be. He genuinely cared about New Mexico State University," she told ABC-7.

Those sentiments were shared by many at Friday's forum.

"When he was president, he would walk around the campus almost every day, shaking hands with faculty, staff and students. He got out and he got involved with everybody. I think he was quite a leader," one man said.

"President Gerald Thomas was our keynote speaker at my high school graduation and helped make my decision to come to NMSU," a woman said.

"We need to change in a lot of ways, but to start off with, gathering information widely from all these different constituent groups. You mentioned Dr. Thomas shaking hands with people, and that's one of the ways he gathered input," another woman said.

Board Chairman Mike Cheney said he hopes to have the presidential search committee put together by the end of the month.

He said they will also decide whether or not it's best to hire a professional search firm. Several who commented spoke out against that.

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