- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 20, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio State University spent more than $600,000 on the search for its new president, including $186,000 for private jet service and about $230,000 for an executive headhunting firm, according to records released Tuesday.

Other expenses included $85,000 for an ad in The New York Times, part of $117,988 the university spent for a one-day symposium in August titled, “Who will lead America’s public universities in the 21st century?”

The documents released at the request of The Associated Press and other media outlets also show $36,000 in consulting fees paid to retired Harvard professor Richard Chait, who moderated the symposium; $3,038 for lunch for the search committee catered by Columbus restaurateur Cameron Mitchell; and $1,496 for a steakhouse dinner for members of a search subcommittee.

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Private donations covered the cost of the Ohio State search and no tuition or tax dollars were used, said university spokesman Gary Lewis.

The seven-month search ended in January with the selection of University of California-Irvine chancellor Michael Drake as the 15th president of Ohio State.

Although Drake’s selection wasn’t announced until Jan. 30, the committee had apparently made up its mind almost three weeks earlier, buying Drake and his wife, Brenda Drake, a $223 “welcome gift” on Jan. 10, according to the documents.

Drake, 63, who assumes his duties July 1, replaces former president Gordon Gee, who retired after remarks he made jabbing Roman Catholics and Southeastern Conference schools were made public a year ago.

Gee spent a few months at Ohio State then took a job at West Virginia University first as the interim president, and then as permanent president, returning to a position he first held in 1981.

Ohio State “constructed a presidential search process to ensure that we would find the very best leader to propel Ohio State forward at an important point in its history,” Lewis said in an email.

Chait said he talked with the board about potential questions for candidates, how candidates might view the board and the “overall market and state” of the university presidency.

“There was never a favored candidate, a predetermined candidate or a predetermined outcome,” Chait said Tuesday. “Absolutely, it was a completely open search.”

The university approached Cornell University president David Skorton in September, according to an email released Tuesday. A message was left with Cornell, while Ohio State trustee Jeffrey Wadsworth, chairman of the search, said in a statement that the committee talked with multiple individuals “to develop a broad and deep pool of exceptional candidates.”

Skorton announced in March his appointment as Smithsonian Institution secretary beginning July 1, 2015.

Drake will earn about $1 million annually in total compensation, or about half what Gee made. Drake’s office referred a call to Ohio State.


Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.

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