RISD Launches Presidential Search

Jun 3, 2014

In an email to RISD faculty, Board Chair Michael Spalter has announced that the search for a new president is underway.

The board has appointed an 11-member search committee, which includes representatives from the RISD Museum, the faculty and the board of trustees.

The university has hired executive search firm Isaacson Miller to help with the search.

RISD's former President John Maeda stepped down unexpectedly in the middle of the academic year to take a venture capital job in Silicon Valley.

His tenure was controversial, with some faculty criticizing his leadership style as remote and overly focused on technology.

RISD Provost Rosanne Somerson has been serving as interim president since Maeda’s departure.

RISD has devoted a page of its website to updates on the presidential search. The site highlights a "wish list" compiled from interviews with RISD faculty, students and others, conducted prior to launching the search.

Some of the top priorities that emerged for next RISD president include a candidate with a proven record of administrative experience, a deep knowledge and passion for both art and design and art and design education, and the ability to conduct "transformative" fundraising.

Board Chair Spalter, in his email to faculty, provides the following list of members appointed to the search committee.

Jon Kamen, Co-Chair:  Trustee, founding Chairman and CEO of RadicalMedia, and proud father of Zack (BFA ’09 ID)

Lisa Pevaroff-Cohn (BFA ’83 TX), Co-Chair:  Board of Trustees Vice Chair, painter and jewelry maker, and passionate champion of cultural diplomacy through the arts

Jeffrey Yan (BArch ’01), Co-Chair:  Trustee, President of RISD’s Alumni Council, former part-time faculty member, and co-founder and CEO of Digication

Brian Callahan (BArch ’00):  Museum Governor and Director of Design at MacAndrews and Forbes

Bunny Fain:  Honorary Trustee, former Board of Trustees Chair, current member of the Fine Arts Committee of the Museum Board of Governors, printmaker, retired businessman, and active participant in the Rhode Island non-profit community

Scheri Fultineer:  Department Head and Graduate Program Director, Landscape Architecture (Division of Architecture + Design and Division of Graduate Studies)

Abraham Lugo:  Public Safety Officer and President of RISD Public Safety Officers’ Association

Stephen Metcalf:  Trustee, Chair of the Academic Affairs Committee, Museum Governor, sculptor and printmaker, and member of RISD’s founding family

Susan Sklarek (MFA ‘78 SC):  Senior Critic and former Department Head, Textiles (Division of Fine Arts)

Susan Ward:  Department Head, History of Art and Visual Culture (Division of Liberal Arts)

Maggie Williams: Trustee and founding partner of Griffin Williams Critical Point Management

Questions remain about why Maeda left RISD so abruptly, announcing his departure just before the end of the fall semester.

In an interview with the magazine Fast Company, Maeda echoes earlier comments that becoming the first design partner in the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers was "the opportunity of a lifetime." He goes on to say he has no regrets about his time at RISD.

I think every leader asks themselves that question. For me, I think I regret that ... Give me a second. Do I have regrets today? Everyone has a regret. Let me pace for a second--could you wait two minutes as I pace?

[Whispering in the background: I don’t regret that ... I don't regret that.]

No, I actually have no regrets. I’m very peaceful. I’ve had a great time with our students. So holy cow, I will say, at least right now when you’re asking me this question, I have no regrets. Call me in a year.

I’m definitely sad to leave--I’ve been president for six years. This is like my family.