Former schools superintendent named SIU president

News-DemocratFebruary 17, 2014 

EDWARDSVILLE - Southern Illinois University's new president will be Randy Dunn, former Illinois state superintendent of schools.

The SIU board of trustees met in closed session Monday to discuss a final candidate to replace retiring president Glenn Poshard. After only a few minutes, the board voted unanimously in favor of hiring Dunn at a salary of $430,000 a year.

Dunn could not be reached for comment Monday.

A native of Illinois, Dunn was a teacher and administrator in southern Illinois elementary schools. He then became a professor at Memphis State University -- now named the University of Memphis -- and SIU Carbondale, where he was a professor and department chairman before becoming state superintendent.

Dunn served as state superintendent from 2004 to 2006, leaving his political post to become president of Murray State University. His time there was somewhat controversial; his hiring was approved by a 7-4 vote, and during his seven years his relationship with the board was sometimes strained, according to news reports. Other news reports indicated that under his leadership, MSU raised a record $70 million in a massive fundraising campaign. While staff and faculty endorsed Dunn's contract renewal in 2013, the board of regents voted not to renew his contract, by which time Dunn had been named president of Youngstown University in Ohio.

Dunn has served at Youngstown for about seven months at a salary of $375,000. He officially was installed as president in November. During his installation speech, he said he was the first student in his family to go to college: He was the son of a farmer and bank teller, and he worked his way through school.

He has a bachelor's degree in teacher education and a master's degree in educational administration from Illinois State University, and a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Illinois. Since 2007 he has been married to Rhonda Baker, a former regional superintendent from southern Illinois.

Board Chairman Randal Thomas said Dunn would be "a strong voice" as president, a job that entails not only managing the multi-campus university, but lobbying in Springfield and working with state legislators for funding. He said in interviews, they asked the candidates about leadership style, relationships with staff, analysis of the funding situation in Illinois and academic priorities, among others.

"Far and away, (Dunn) knocked it out of the park," Thomas said. "His answers were spot-on."

The overlap between Poshard's and Dunn's administration still must be determined, Thomas said. The salary was determined by examining salaries of other system presidents, which included $400,000 for the University of Illinois president and $450,000 for the president of the University of Chicago.

Thomas also said Dunn will not receive a housing allowance, which was part of Poshard's salary package. He said their consultants advised that nationally, universities are getting away from housing allowances and folding most compensation into the salary instead. He will receive $430,000 per year on a four-year contract with the standard medical and retirement benefits of state employees, plus moving expenses and a university car, Thomas said.

SIUE Chancellor Julie Furst-Bowe extended her congratulations to Dunn. "We understand the many challenges that face higher education and SIUE in particular, as we strategically plan for the next five to 10 years," she said. "We are confident that Dr. Dunn is more than up to the task. His experience, dedication and innovative spirit will continue to push SIUE to greater heights."

Thomas and trustees Joel Sambursky, Don Lowery and Marquita Wiley were present and approved allowing trustees Dr. Roger Herrin, Jesse Cler, Donna Manering and Shirley Portwood to participate by teleconference.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at or 618-239-2507.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at or 618-239-2507.

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