May 28, 2023

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KU Chancellor Selection

Both of the Kansas University-related finalists for the KU chancellorship are winners in every respect but a selection had to be made.

The selection of Dr. Doug Girod over Dr. Neeli Bendapudi probably came as a surprise to many but it is good news for the University, good for Lawrence and good for Kansas. The same could have been said if Bendapudi had been selected.

Girod is sure to inject leadership, vision, energy, enthusiasm and respect in Strong Hall, throughout the University and among the school’s alumni and friends around the country. There’s every reason to believe that under Girod’s leadership the University will grow in excellence and elevate its position among the nation’s top state-aided research institutions as well as private colleges.

Moving from the office of Executive Vice Chancellor of the KU Medical Center to the KU chancellorship, Girod will be following the path of former KU chancellors Dr. Franklin Murphy and Dr. Clarke Wescoe, both of whom were deans at the KU Medical School. Murphy and Wescoe were outstanding chancellors, some of the very best, and there’s reason to believe Dr. Girod will provide similar leadership.

Bendapudi, the ever-enthusiastic and effective KU spokesperson, served as dean of the KU School of Business and currently is KU Provost. She did a tremendous job in energizing the B-School, raised the money to build the new business school building, introduced new programs and is a superb spokesperson for the University.

Those interested and familiar with the search effort and the importance, particularly at this time, of bringing in someone who would provide a spark and leadership for the institution thought both Girod and Bendapudi could be great hires, no matter whom was selected. Due to their respective jobs and responsibilities, it was believed Bendapudi probably had greater visibility and was known by more KU alumni and friends as well as the general public than Girod, who has focused his efforts on the medical school and the medical community. It is likely there was one other top-flight candidate presented to the Regents which means the search and selection committee, headed up by KU alum and Hutchinson native, Dave Dillon, did an outstanding job. In fact, their efforts and Dillon’s commitment to do an excellent job resulted in a search effort far more intense, deeper and more comprehensive than those in similar past efforts.
Many alumni were and continue to be concerned that with the finalists down to Girod and Bendapudi, what were the chances the individual not selected would decide to accept attractive offers from other universities, medical centers or top business/industry positions.

Bendapudi has achieved so much in her relatively short time at KU and it is known she has turned down many highly attractive and highly paid jobs, but elected to remain at KU. What can KU leaders and alumni do to encourage her to stay in Lawrence as her departure would be a major loss for KU, Lawrence and the state.

Likewise, Girod has compiled a superior record in his leadership at the KU Medical Center/Medical School. He inherited a mess when he stepped into his office and he has the enthusiastic support of his staff and faculty. He played a pivotal role in the clinical integration of the KU Health System and construction of the massive medical education building at the corner of Rainbow and 39th Streets. The cooperation between the medical school and KU Hospital under the leadership of President and Chief Executive Officer, Bob Page, has never been better.
According to a medical school “insider,” Girod is looked to as a “rock star” by those on the medical school campus, a “stand up” guy, a good speaker, highly intelligent and he makes it clear what he stands for and what he wants and expects from everyone at the school.

If the search process for Girod followed the search efforts for several recent Kansas chancellors and presidents, it is likely Regents made it clear they did not want the search team to rank their finalists. This was a specific message so the final decision between Girod and Bendapudi was made by the Regents, not the search committee or the firm hired to help in the search.
Again, based on past practices, it is probable the chair of the search committee, Dave Dillon, was invited to join the Regents for lunch or dinner where there could be a general discussion about the search process and Regents could ask various questions about the exercise, possibly seeking the perception of the search chair relative to the group of finalists. Although Dillon probably knew Bendapudi better than Girod, the public can be sure he withheld his own personal evaluations when visiting with the Regents. The final decision was made by the Regents. Hopefully, the result will be better than some past decisions by Regents.

Now that the decision has been made, the general feeling among KU supporters likely will be excitement and enthusiasm for Girod and heartache for Bendapudi.

Both are winners, as is the University, and there is no so-called loser.

Hopefully, there will be some way for the University and the state to benefit from the joint efforts of both Girod and Bendapudi in the years to come. Again, everyone and the state would be winners.