Although several well-known Kentuckians have been mentioned as potential candidates to replace retiring University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd Jr., academic observers say it's unlikely a household name will lead the state's flagship university.
Two people who can be crossed off the list are former Gov. Paul Patton, who is chairman of the state Council on Postsecondary Education, and State Auditor Crit Luallen.
Patton and Luallen have been mentioned as possible successors to Todd, who will retire in 2011, but both say they're not interested in the job.
Todd announced in September he planned to leave the president's job. The next president will be UK's 12th since classical scholar James K. Patterson took the job in 1869.
UK "needs a nationally prominent scholar who is experienced in education at that level, that can step in and continue the progress that has been made," said Patton, 73, who is also president of Pikeville College.
"I doubt that any of us would have heard of the person that they would come up with," Patton said. "It's a pretty small group of specialists. ... When you aspire to be one of the top 20 or so universities, nationwide there's probably not more than 20 or 30 people qualified to do that job, at least that might be available."
He said the new president is likely to be 45 to 55 and able to serve at least 10 years at UK.
Selecting the right person is critical to the state's future, said Patton, who said the position "could very well be more important than the governor's job."
Former Gov. Martha Layne Collins, 73, who also has been mentioned in some circles as a potential candidate, did not return calls to her office at Georgetown College, where she is executive scholar in residence. Nor did King Alexander, president of California State University at Long Beach, who was president of Murray State University 2001-06, where he succeeded his father, Kern Alexander, who also is a former president of Western Kentucky University.
John Roush, president of Centre College, also has been mentioned given his success in blending high academic standards with fund-raising prowess. Centre was recently named the top college in the south by Forbes magazine.
Michael Adams, who was Centre's president 1988-97, made the jump from president of Centre to his current job as president of the University of Georgia.
Roush could not reached for comment.
UK provost Kumble Subbaswamy, 59, who has spent much of his career at UK, provided a vague answer when he was asked last week if he had any interest in the job.
"My primary goal is to see the university gets the right leader," he said.
Asked what his role in that process should be, he said "I'm not sure yet."
Luallen, 58, said she has not applied for the job nor is she interested.
"I'm flattered ... but I'm totally focused on my job here," she said. "I think it is a vital job, and so critical to Kentucky's long-term future. ... I hope that the board is able to cast a wide net."
Lexington Mayor-elect Jim Gray, who served on a search committee for the president of Berea College, said he hoped the new president would bring "inspiring and charismatic leadership" to the university, where he or she "has the bully pulpit and has the authority to lead and express vision."
He said the relationship between UK and the city "is arguably better than it ever has been" — for which he credits Todd — "and, arguably, has room for improvement."
Even if the board casts a wide net, the trustees' search consultant, Florida-based Greenwood/Asher, emphasized in a Sunday trustees retreat that many presidential search candidates expect total confidentiality during the search process.
One potential scenario that consultant Jan Greenwood discussed on Sunday would bring only one preferred finalist to the campus for public meetings. But UK board chairman Britt Brockman said Sunday that no decision has been made on how the board will treat the confidentiality of candidates who are finalists for the position.