Presidential Search Process

December 17, 2019

Dear Grinnellians,

Last week, when I shared the news that President Kington would be leaving Grinnell at the end of this academic year to become Head of School at Phillips Academy Andover, I indicated that we would keep you informed about our progress in the search for his successor.

The Trustees have engaged Isaacson, Miller, one of the country’s premier executive search firms with more than 37 years of experience in recruiting senior leaders. They have assisted Grinnell in several leadership searches in recent years, including the last presidential search and three other senior leadership positions, including  the new dean of the college. A major consideration in the selection of Isaacson, Miller was their commitment to recruiting diverse talent. Since they were founded in 1982, 43% of their placements have been women, and 23% have been people of color. Isaacson, Miller will help us identify and recruit candidates from a broad range of backgrounds.

Thanks to their previous engagements with Grinnell, Isaacson, Miller understands our mission and appreciates our culture, which is essential to helping us find a new leader to further both. John Isaacson, the co-founder and chair of the firm, will head the Grinnell consulting team. The Board of Trustees recently held a special meeting with the Isaacson, Miller team, during which we took several steps to launch the search process.

The first and most important of these was the appointment of a Presidential Search Committee representing all College stakeholders, co-chaired by Board members Trish Fitzgibbons Anderson ’80 and George Moose ’66. The committee members include:

  • Trustee members: Shelley Floyd ’72, Julie Gosselink, John Kispert ’85, Jeanne Myerson ’75, Ed Senn ’79, Joel Spiegel ’78, and Matthew Welch ’96.
  • Faculty members: Todd Armstrong, professor of Russian and chair of faculty; Caleb Elfenbein, associate professor of history and religious studies and director of the Center for Humanities; Karla Erickson, professor of sociology and chair of gender, women’s, and sexuality studies; Lakesia Johnson, associate professor of gender, women’s, and sexuality studies and English and assistant vice-president and chief diversity officer; and Vida Praitis, professor of biology.
  • Staff member: Erika Jack, science technical support and Staff Council president.
  • Student member: Regina Logan ’20, Student Government Association president.
  • Alumni member: Ryann Haines Cheung ’93, Alumni Council president.

I want to assure you that the Trustees, the Search Committee members, and our consulting partners have solemn respect for the importance of our responsibilities and duties in selecting the College’s next leader. We are extremely grateful to all of them for their willingness to serve the College in this capacity.

The search committee and Isaacson, Miller welcome and strongly encourage input from the community throughout the selection process. Members of the Isaacson, Miller Grinnell search team will be on campus Jan. 27 - 29 to solicit broad-based input about the leadership profile we are seeking for our next president. Campus members are also invited to submit applications or nominations of qualified individuals through the Isaacson, Miller website. Once the search committee begins its work, we will share additional information on the search process at

One of the key tenets of our collective work will be to maintain absolute confidentiality about candidates during the search. Respecting a candidate’s right to privacy is a crucial guarantee in order to develop the strongest possible candidate pool, which may include recruiting individuals not actively seeking a new position. The Search Committee co-chairs will provide regular updates regarding the search process, but specifics about candidates must be held in confidence.

As I shared last week, the Trustees are confident that we are well positioned to attract an exceptional successor to President Kington, ensuring that Grinnell College’s upward trajectory continues with new, visionary leadership that both celebrates and builds not only upon his legacy, but also more importantly upon the rich traditions of the College. The Isaacson, Miller team, with their decades of experience in higher education leadership searches, shares that confidence. This is an exciting time for Grinnell College, and we look forward to selecting an outstanding new president to lead us in the years to come.

Sincerely yours,

David Maxwell ’66
Chair, Grinnell College Board of Trustees

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