By Denise Dick
Three months before he resigned as Youngstown State University president to become president of Southern Illinois University, Randy J. Dunn nominated someone else for the job.
The Vindicator made a public records request for all emails between Dunn and SIU, and between Dunn and R. William Funk & Associates, the Dallas search firm employed by SIU to find its president, since Dunn’s arrival at YSU. The newspaper also requested all of Dunn’s emails between Feb. 12 and 17.
Other than Dunn’s November nomination of Brent Clark, whom he described as one of his former graduate students, for the SIU presidency, the emails come after his acceptance of the new job.
Clark is executive director of the Illinois Association of School Administrators.
After seven months at the YSU helm, Dunn announced Feb. 17 that he had accepted the SIU presidency and would be leaving. YSU trustees first learned that Dunn might be leaving through a report in the SIU student newspaper, the Daily Egyptian.
Emails from several other media outlets as well as people on campus and in the community, inquiring about his plans, were sent Feb. 16.
That night, Dunn sent an email to trustees.
“At this point I trust that all of you have seen the press reports naming me as a finalist candidate for the presidency of the Southern Illinois University System,” it says.
An emergency trustees meeting was scheduled for Feb. 17.
“As you might imagine, there is a longer story to all this that is not appropriate for email and needs to be explained to all trustees at the same time,” he wrote. “I appreciate everyone’s willingness to be available for the emergency meeting tomorrow evening to lay this out and have discussion with you.”
He said he wasn’t going to answer any reporters’ questions until he met with the board.
“I am sorry for the disruption this will create for the campus for the immediate future and look forward to talking with you more in detail tomorrow evening,” Dunn wrote.
Dunn initially gave six-months notice as required by his contract. But a contract amendment was negotiated between Dunn and YSU trustees allowing an earlier exit. His last day was Friday.
His emails with people at SIU talk about media coverage of his resignation, his positive treatment by YSU and his excitement about the new job.
“Actually — other than for the bloggers and commenters on the media websites (to be expected) — I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome or treatment on the YSU end of things,” he wrote Feb. 19 to Donna L. Manering, vice chairwoman of the SIU trustees.
“An intense couple of days, but we are good,” he continued. “The coverage is dying out on this end about me, and is now moving on to whether YSU could also attract a favorite son of Yo-town to come back to be the next president ... former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel. He is beloved at this place and there was a hard push to get him back here for the job before I was hired.”
In the same email, he noted “Ronda and I are very excited and literally did a dance in the kitchen as we followed the developments Monday via Twitter.”
In a Feb. 19 email to Rita Cheng, chancellor at SIU, Dunn wrote: “It has been going better than I expected in Youngstown — board has been OK and the news cycle on this one has about run its course in our media market ... Everyone is moving on. For all its problems, I love Illinois and particularly the region that is the footprint of SIU. I look forward to coming back to work with many others to advance the system in the area.”
Dunn had been a professor, and then head of the education department at SIU, before leaving to become Illinois state schools superintendent — the job he had until becoming president of Murray State University in Kentucky in 2006.