Illinois State University Appoints Its 18th President

NORMAL — After a four-and-a-half month, nationwide search, the Illinois State University Board of Trustees selected Timothy Flanagan to be Illinois State University’s next president, on May 10. 

Flanagan will become the 18th president of Illinois State University, starting Aug. 15. He has served as president of Framingham State University in Framingham, Mass., since 2006, and will replace Al Bowman, who announced his retirement in December.

The ISU Board of Trustees and Presidential Search Advisory Committee interviewed several applicants for the presidential position, before narrowing down the list of applicants to a group of finalists. The presidential finalists were Flanagan, Illinois State University Vice President of Student Affairs Larry Dietz, Murray State University President Randy Dunn and Morehead State University Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Karla Hughes. 

Director of the ISU School of Theatre and Dance Janet Wilson, a member of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee, said Flanagan was “an excellent choice” because “he has all of the requisite experience in higher education.”

“He served as a chair and a provost and a president and a faculty member, so he’s well versed in the academic side of the institution,” said Wilson. “I think he has demonstrated really excellent interpersonal people skills and was very effective in all stages of the interview process — from his written material that he turned in initially to the search committee, to the visit that we had with him in Chicago and then when we brought him to campus.”

ISU Academic Senate Chairman Dan Holland, a member of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee, agreed with comments made by Flanagan about the importance of faculty-student connections.

“This is kind of what makes ISU, ISU — the relationships students have with individual faculty members,” said Holland. “I think he will fit in with the university community.”

ISU Student Trustee Aaron Von Qualen described Flanagan as a “student-oriented” person who has a style similar to Bowman, a president that was well-liked by students.

“I think he knows coming in that he has great shoes to fill,” said Qualen. 

Wilson thinks Flanagan’s experience with “normal schools” will benefit ISU.

“He’s familiar with the concept of ‘normal schools,’ so I think he’ll bring a real understanding of that to ISU,” said Wilson. 

“Normal schools” are training institutions — the first of which was established in France by the Brothers of the Christian Schools in 1685 — that are intended to set a pattern, establish a “norm” after which all other schools could be modeled.

“I have worked in several universities that were founded as ‘normal schools’ and developed into comprehensive public universities, and I believe they offer great value to students and families,” said Flanagan. “

Flanagan was drawn to ISU by its reputation as a top public university.

“Illinois State is a great public university with a wonderful history, great faculty and academic programs, talented students and more than 190,000 alumni who are making important contributions to their professions and communities,” said Flanagan. “ISU has earned an enviable reputation as one of the best public universities in America. ISU presented a highly-attractive professional opportunity.” 

Flanagan expects to face financial challenges, as president of ISU.

“All of higher education faces financial challenges, pressures from changing demographics, new technology, and ever-changing economic conditions that affect college graduates,” said Flanagan. “Public institutions, in particular, are challenged by budgetary problems in the state governments that support them. Many in the public are beginning to question the value and importance of higher education, so it will be incumbent on universities to be open and direct in stating their case for support.”

Flanagan has a Ph.D. in criminal justice from the University of Albany, the State University of New York and has done postgraduate work at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. He previously served as provost and vice president for academic affairs, as well as a professor of criminal justice at College at Brockport, the State University of New York.

In addition to serving as president, Flanagan was a professor of sociology at Framingham State University, a university that has around 7,000 students. He and his wife, Nancy, who holds a Ph.D. in nursing, have two children and four grandchildren.

Flanagan signed a three-year contract with ISU and will be paid $350,000 a year, not including benefits. Bowman’s current salary is $400,000.

After serving 10 years as ISU president, Bowman officially retired last week. Provost Sheri Noren Everts will serve as interim president until Aug. 14. Everts has been the ISU provost since July of 2008.