Kean announces firm to find Farahi replacement

Kean University President Dawood Farahi.

UNION, N.J. — Executive search firm Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates has been chosen to lead Kean University’s hunt to replace President Dawood Farahi, according to a Sept. 16 announcement by the school.

Farahi, who has served as the institution’s 17th president since 2003, announced in late August that he would step down in 2020.

According to a press release from the university’s board of trustees, the school will “keep the Kean community informed about the search process. The site will be updated, as information becomes available, with details about the timeline as well as opportunities for members of the public to participate in the process.”

According to its website, Storbeck/Pimentel, which is based in Media, Pa., specializes in finding executives for colleges and universities, independent schools, nonprofit institutions and coaches. It points to recent placements for the George C. Marshall Foundation, the University of North Carolina and Georgia Southern University.

“Selecting Dr. Farahi’s successor will not be easy considering his legacy of outstanding accomplishments here at Kean,” board of trustees Chairwoman Ada Morrell said in a press release regarding the search process. “But we are eager to begin a collaborative process and are confident it will result in finding a new president who will continue to move the university forward.”

The Sept. 16 meeting of the school’s board of trustees was attended by both faculty and students, who weighed in on what they consider vital in selecting Farahi’s replacement. Discussions of transparency were repeated at the meeting.

One student said he wanted to see someone concerned with the quality of scholarships as president. Student Kathleen Conaty emphasized the importance of hiring and keeping full-time professors, although adjunct professors are more cost effective, noting that her lecture classes are one of her favorite aspects of Kean. Another student emphasized the importance of bringing candidates in to meet with staff, faculty and students.

Four days earlier, the Kean Federation of Teachers union issued a statement regarding its demands for a new president, saying the search “must be: national in scope; inclusive of all university and community constituencies in the formulation of the search committee, including representation from all campus unions; open and transparent in its process; and conducted with the highest standards of integrity so as to ensure its legitimacy.

“Further … that to ensure its legitimacy, the search must seek out candidates with a proven track record of excellence in teaching and scholarship and of respectful, collaborative, and inclusive higher education leadership at comparable four-year universities.”

Farahi often clashed with the union, which gave him a no-confidence vote before his last contract extension, and whose leaders less than two months ago accused him of running a school with too many managers and too few faculty members.

Farahi has been praised by former state Sen. Raymond Lesniak and Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage for initiatives such as the expansion of the school and partnerships with other schools, from South Jersey to China.

Among “signature achievements” cited in a previous press release by Kean are the school’s creation of the New Jersey Center for Science, Technology and Mathematics; the creation of the Human Rights Institute; and the integration of the Liberty Hall Museum campus with the university.

But Farahi’s tenure was marked by highly publicized incidents, including the purchase of a $250,000 conference table, accusations that he falsified his academic credentials on his resume and the loss of accreditation for its master’s degree program in public administration.