[image-1]UPDATE: College of Charleston board members announced today they have set up a search committee to choose the next president. The committee is made up of 13 people including trustees, alumni, the Student Government president, the elected leader of the faculty, and a staff representative. The company AGB Search, a leading national search firm, will assist the team. 

“I am grateful that these members of our community have agreed to take on this very significant responsibility,” board chairman Greg Padgett said in a statement. “I expect there will be many outstanding candidates for the College’s presidency. I am highly confident that, working together, this committee will identify distinguished and qualified finalists as part of a thorough, fair, and inclusive search process.”

Padgett said he expects the position will be advertised beginning in November, with finalists invited to campus in February. 

The College of Charleston’s 20 trustees will meet Friday to begin formally discussing how they’ll replace outgoing president George Benson. 

According to a college spokesperson, the board is expected to announce the college has chosen a search firm. It’s the first step in a process that’s drawn much attention, largely because of the high-profile personalities of those who have expressed interest in the job.

Former S.C. First Lady Jenny Sanford said she’s eyeing the position; Republican Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell is also reportedly interested. His longtime consultant Richard Quinn said today that while McConnell has been approached by trustees about leading the college — he’s a CofC graduate and has a building named after him — he plans to seek re-election as lieutenant governor. Quinn doesn’t expect McConnell to make an official announcement about his plans in the near future. Charleston GOP Rep. Chip Limehouse said he’s been approached about the presidency job as well.

Normally, the hiring of a president at an institute like CofC isn’t a spectacle. But the names of Sanford, McConnell and Limehouse swirling in the mix has created something of a toxic brew over on George Street. Last month, college faculty members expressed alarm at the political names floating around. In fact, the school’s Faculty Senate passed a unanimous resolution asking the Board of Trustees to conduct a national search and hire someone with experience in higher education.

After Sanford’s name emerged, the former editorial editor of The State newspaper in Columbia, Brad Warthen, threw his own name out there on his blog as someone the trustees might consider, albeit with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Benson, 67, who has led the school since 2007, earlier this year said he would be stepping down in June 2014. He currently makes $366,000 per year at the post. He’ll continue to teach business classes at the college. In August he was hospitalized and diagnosed with Lyme disease.

The Board of Trustees consists of two members from each of South Carolina’s seven congressional districts, three at-large members elected by the General Assembly, and three members appointed by the governor, one of those based on a recommendation by the College of Charleston Alumni Association.

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