Getting to Know Drury’s 18th President: Part 1 – The Selection Process

Part One: The View from the Search Committee

In an effort to better get to know Dr. J. Timothy Cloyd following a confidential search process, we asked several members of the search committee to discuss how and why they chose the school’s next leader. We will hear directly from Dr. Cloyd himself in future installments.

How did Dr. Cloyd come to the search team’s attention?

Lyle Reed, Chair, Board of Trustess: I was speaking with my good friend Dr. Robert Wyatt, President of Coker College and former director of Drury’s Breech School of Business Administration and asked him if he could think of any candidates he would recommend. He highly recommended Dr. Tim Cloyd, who had been president of Hendrix College when Robert was an ACE Fellow (mentoring and training individuals to be higher education senior leaders) assigned to Hendrix.  He indicated Tim had returned to the classroom, but might now be interested in returning to leadership and would check with him.  He then told me Dr. Cloyd was interested and gave me his contact information. We set up a meeting in Conway and he subsequently applied to be a candidate for the presidency.

What was your first impression of Dr. Cloyd?

Reed: I think many of us were looking for a charismatic individual, with a broadcaster’s voice, right out of Central Casting, who would quiet a room as soon as he walked in. That is not Dr. Cloyd. He is soft spoken, and doesn’t desire to take over a room.

Second impression?

Reed: His thoughtful and strategic mind quickly becomes captivating on any subject, especially higher education as it relates to yesterday, today and tomorrow.  His extensive background and experience provides plenty of substance for those discussions.

So, why did you choose him?

Bill Hart, Board of Trustees: Our search committee, with survey input from faculty, staff and alumni, compiled a list of specific criteria our new president must have. Dr. Cloyd easily met all the criteria. Additionally, and to me most importantly, Dr. Cloyd did for Hendrix what we’re hoping to do here at Drury. I believe he will assimilate all the strengths and wonderful attributes of Drury in a new vision of the University, which will be compelling and attractive to today’s students.

What excites you most about him?

Penny Clayton, faculty member: Dr. Cloyd is clearly a visionary leader and impressive intellectual. He has become quickly familiar with Drury’s background and is looking forward to providing fresh solutions to ongoing struggles. He has already developed a strong desire to get to know the Drury community and during interviews, spoke of the importance of exercising emotional intelligence.

Hart: Dr. Cloyd has such an incredible breadth and depth to his background, education and life experiences. I believe he demonstrates a quiet, but successful, analytical approach to problems and issues which will appeal to everyone at Drury: students, faculty, alumni and the Board.

How extensive was the vetting process?

Reed: It was as extensive as possible without hiring a gumshoe to shadow him and interrogate his acquaintances back to childhood. It included multiple face-to-face interviews with committee members, numerous telephone conversations, a volume of emails, Internet searches, and extensive reference and public records checking by our professional search firm. The search firm conducted a comprehensive interview with him. And our search committee received his medical reports and had background conversations with other confidential sources.

What did you learn from vetting that you didn’t know from his CV?

Reed: We learned more about his personal life, especially his family.  He was divorced some seven years ago from the mother of his children – Thomas, 16, and Samuel, 18. He is remarried and his wife, Wendy, has a son from a previous marriage, Logan, who is attending college in New Zealand. She lived in New Zealand for several years after running the family business in Nashville. Wendy and Tim were neighbors and classmates in high school and were reacquainted at a class reunion.

Were there any surprising moments during the process?

Reed: No, but there were some very candid discussions about serious topics, including one in particular about an incident that significantly impacted his family. On Christmas evening 2012, Dr. Cloyd hosted some international students at his home. That event had ended and he, his wife and sons were having family Christmas time together which included exchanging gifts, relaxing together, and he had a drink. Around midnight, an armed fugitive forced his way into their home and overtly threatened Dr. Cloyd’s family with harm if they didn’t do as told. He was in another room and heard the commotion, retrieved his personal handgun for which he is trained and holds a permit, and proceeded to hold the intruder at bay until the police arrived. Fortunately, the police arrived fairly quickly. Numerous police officers entered the residence while the person was still at large in the house. There was a considerable struggle and force was required to restrain the intruder, who was on drugs. He recalled it for us as a very frightening, chaotic scene, and a traumatic situation for his family, who witnessed everything first hand. It was clear to us that he did exactly what he believed he needed to do to protect his family in that difficult situation, and the good news was that none of his family was harmed, nor did he have to harm the intruder. It was a horrifying experience for the Cloyd family that required them to receive subsequent victim counseling. It is hard to be prepared for emergencies where you only have adrenaline-filled seconds to react.

Hart: I was an FBI agent for four years before entering a legal practice. After hearing the facts about the entire incident, I could understand why this event was so impactful. No one can imagine or anticipate how fast something like that happens and how disorienting, confusing and terrifying the situation can be. Law enforcement trains for that type of incident and still, you never know how you will react until it happens. In training, you talk about the incident after it’s over and invariably someone says they wish they had done something a little differently. It is never the same next time, there is always some circumstance that changes. This is certainly the kind of situation no one wants to go through.

What path led Dr. Cloyd to Drury?

Reed: Well, he had resigned as president of Hendrix about three years ago. The committee wanted to know why such a successful president would step down and return to the classroom. Those decision processes are not often a straight line and usually have multiple influences.  He had been thinking about stepping down for a year or so. He had twelve years of major happenings at Hendrix, including weathering two major recessions and had just completed a successful comprehensive capital campaign. Presidencies are demanding of personal time. Tim believes that presidents often have a “shelf life” at a particular institution and new thinking is needed to keep strategies fresh and relevant. And, while it was not a primary driver, the invasion incident was a life-changing experience for him and his family and influenced their personal priorities. I think all of those things combined to cause him to take a timeout. And, his timeout came to an end at the same time we began our search.

What is the one thing you want the Drury community to know about Dr. Cloyd?

Hart: I believe he is a really quick study. We shouldn’t be surprised if he has discovered a lot more about the issues facing Drury and today’s liberal arts education by July 1 than any of us expect. I suspect he will have many ideas about how to move Drury forward sooner than we anticipate and he will be right.

Clayton: He will be active in the Drury and Springfield communities and is dedicated to ensuring Drury’s future as a prestigious liberal arts university. I believe he will thoughtfully assess the current Drury climate, yet move quickly in developing momentum for a successful Drury future.

Reed: He is an empirical decision-maker and action-oriented. Traits that all references shared were: he is a strategic thinker, idea generator, entrepreneur, risk taker, visionary and efficacious leader. Our committee asked Dr. Cloyd: Of those traits, which one he would most embrace?  His answer: he is an “idea person.”  But, I believe they all speak to who Tim Cloyd is. I have personally spent a lot of time with Dr. Cloyd since the search team voted unanimously to recommend him to the full board of trustees as Drury’s 18th president, and I am now even more convinced that Tim Cloyd is the right person to lead Drury into the future we all desire.

Read Part 2 of the Q&A Series: The Formative Years.