My former colleague Paul Davies last week proposed former PA Gov. Ed Rendell as a logical successor to departing Temple University President Ann Weaver Hart.
The Associated Press yesterday floated former PA Gov. Tom Ridge as a logical successor to scandal-plagued Penn State President Graham Spanier.
Governors may bring useful skills to running these semi-public, heavily taxpayer-subsidized instutions: They have long experience dressing up questionable ideas, and prying scarce dollars from reluctant legislators.
In Rendell's case, as Davies wrote, his past fund-raising skills extend deep into the private sector: "Business execs throw money at him like he’s a stripper at Scores." Though it's not clear how far Democrat Rendell would be able to help Temple today in Republican-controlled Pennsylvania.
Of course Temple's board is already run by a couple of heavyweight Republican Party fund-raisers: trustee chairman Patrick O'Connor of the law firm Cozen O'Connor, and facilities committee chair Mitchell Morgan, the apartment mogul.
Still and all, what kind of signal will it send if the top offices of our public universities are perceived as becoming a tax-supported haven for ex-politicians, instead of just ambitious academics with edifice complexes?
And would Ridge and Rendell really want the headaches of pleasing rowdy students, anxious faculty, demanding alumni and fractious legislators? They can make ever so much more money (more even than Spanier's $800,000/year) as consultants and dealmakers, exploiting their public connections in the private sector.