In the end, it wasn’t all that hard. As a member of the search committee, the hardest thing I had to do was attend meetings of various constituencies to seek out advice about the challenges facing the new president. That was hard because I had to shut up and listen.
President-elect L. Rafael Reif saved us a lot of trouble, because without him among the candidates, we would have had a difficult time deciding among the rest of the strong candidates.
We might have divided up into camps, fighting, but we did not. As far as I could tell, there was complete harmony and consensus among the twenty-two search committee members, ten from the faculty and twelve from the Corporation.
If you find yourself ever doing this sort of thing, you need to develop some deflection mechanisms because reporters may try to trick you into revealing something you should not. They might ask: “Is it true that x is on the short list?”
X is generally an implausible but not ridiculously implausible candidate, meant to get you talking. Jim Champy, our experienced chairmain, instructed us in how to answer all questions: “I can neither conform nor deny anything.”
With increasing frequency, your friends will stop you in the hall:
“Well, the search is pretty far along. What’s happening?”
Eventually, I settled on a stock answer:
“Oh, didn’t you hear? We gave up. Couldn’t find anyone.”
Then, after it was announced that there would be an announcement, but before the announcement, into my office they poured:
“Aw, come on. Is it Rafael?”
“Actually, I think you will be surprised; it’s a bold move on our part. Head of Disney. The search committee foresees entertainment and education coming together, so who could be better?”
One seemed to believe, so I finished with:
“Of course we will have to dump the beaver in favor of the other rodent…”