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Presidential Succession and Transition: Beginning, Ending, and Beginning Again by John W. Moore and Joanne M. Burrows, 2001.



Presidential Succession and Transition: Beginning, Ending, and Beginning Again by John W. Moore and Joanne M. Burrows, 2001, New York: American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

In the wake of President Allen announcing his retirement, I felt compelled to read this book because the title captured all of the transitions acquainted with the presidency. Each chapter, as outlined, related aspects of the position of president through the various transitions and also through the lenses of presidents, governing boards, search committees, and the cabinet.

The first chapter, Succession and Transition, discussed the theoretical perspectives on the nature of change and transition. The chapter focused on succession planning and recommendations on how to exit the presidency. Chapter two entitled Beginning: Assuming the Presidency focused on advice for aspiring presidents about accepting an offer, disclosing problems, the period between the offer and assuming the office, and the challenges of taking charge. Chapter three discussed Ending: Leaving the Presidency. This chapter provided insights for sitting presidents on knowing when to leave, making and announcing the decision, being a lame duck, closing the presidency, involuntary separation, and pursuing another presidency. Beginning Again, Thriving After the Presidency was the topic of chapter four. Suggestions for departing presidents on transitions, retirements, choosing where to reside and exploring other professional opportunities were the elements of this chapter. Chapter five detailed what governing boards can do when Managing the Process. The purpose of this chapter was to provide guidance for governing boards and system executives in managing presidential transitions, including the search and selection process, determining conditions of employments, orienting new presidents, and bringing presidencies to dignified closure. The final chapter Developing a Special Relationship provided advice on how to enhance the complex relationship between predecessor and successor.

This 76 pages monograph concluded with appendices of helpful items for aspiring and departing presidents and for those who are engaged in hiring, orientation, and acculturation of the president. Items in the appendices included a checklist that outlines conditions of employment, post-presidency benefits and a guide for financial, health care, and retirement planning.

When I first discovered this booklet, I sent the title to the Board of Regents. After reading the book, I found that it is ideal for those on the search committee, the President, and all others who are interested in a successful succession and their role in the process.

Quote from Book:

A favorite story shared among university presidents is that of the departing president who left two envelopes for his successor along with these instructions: “When faced with your initial crisis, open the first envelope. When faced with the next crisis, open the second.”

When that first crisis erupted, the then-current president opened the first envelope and read with relief the advice, “Blame me!” Sometime later the second crisis arose, and the president remembered the second envelope. He pulled it from the desk drawer, promptly opened it, and read, “Prepare two letters.”