Since this past fall, two major recruitment searches have concluded with the University signing on its first-choice candidates: Thomas Lynch ’82 MED ’86 to lead the Yale Cancer Center, and Edward Snyder to take over in July 2011 as dean of the School of Management.
Administrators said these two coups are the result of the recruiting skills of University President Richard Levin, as well as Vice President Linda Lorimer, Provost Peter Salovey and other University officials. Recruiting successes have contributed to Yale’s growth in better economic times, and some administrators said continued success may help Yale to weather the current recession.
Levin, for his part, said recruiting is one of the most important parts of his job, and that putting together a team of like-minded officers, deans and directors helps the University to function as a whole. Levin said he keeps his eye out for potential recruits, and that once he taps new appointees, he takes measures to help them and their families adjust to life in New Haven.
“President Levin is an excellent recruiter first and foremost because he loves Yale and New Haven and is therefore able to speak with passion and honesty about coming here,” Salovey said.
Those he has recruited added that Levin is a good listener and a straightforward and patient negotiator. Lynch and two of Levin’s past recruits — John Pepper ’60, who served as vice president of finance and administration from 2004 to 2006, and Michael Peel, vice president for human resources and administration — said they came to Yale in large part because they realized they would enjoy working with Levin.
“I think [Levin] has a kind of personal leadership style that’s attractive to someone who is contemplating coming in,” said SOM professor Jim Baron, who chaired the search committee that found Snyder. “They perceive correctly that he’s someone they can deal with in a very straightforward, person-to-person way.”
Levin looks for similar traits in the people he hires to help lead Yale: He said he thinks the University setting calls for a different kind of leader than the political or corporate sector, and that he looks for people who are patient, open to the ideas of others and prone to leading by persuasion rather than command.
KEEPING AN EYE OUT FOR TALENT
Levin said he constantly monitors potential recruits so that he knows who is looking for a new position or a change of pace. The same day Peel announced his retirement from the executive board of General Mills, he received a call from Levin asking if he would be interested in coming to Yale — Peel had previously worked at Yale as a member of an external committee on diversity.
Levin said he made a similar call to Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs and Campus Development Bruce Alexander ’65 several years before, when Alexander served on several civic boards in Baltimore.
Forestry School professor Gus Speth ’64 LAW ’69, who came to Yale in 1999 from the United Nations, said Levin is a good judge of talent. Pepper agreed that Levin has a “nose for excellence,” and that his ability to assemble a cohesive and skilled team has been a great benefit to the University.
Lynch said there were some personal hurdles to his move to New Haven — he had to be sure the change would not hurt his wife’s career or upset his three children’s education. Peel also had to figure out schooling for his teenage sons before committing to work at Yale. He said Levin and Lorimer were instrumental in the search for a school, and for housing, making the move possible.
Indeed, Levin said he is very “hands-on” about the recruiting process.
“I often help directly, making a recommendation to get kids into schools, or helping to find connections that allow spouses to get job interviews,” he said.
‘THE LIFEBLOOD OF THE FUTURE’
Levin is responsible for recruiting University officers and deans, college masters, department chairs and directors of several major institutes and centers. Though he makes appointments across many University sectors in any given year, both Lynch and Snyder were recruited to parts of campus that are rapidly changing and growing.
Yale’s new cancer center, to which Lynch was recruited, is part of the West Campus, a property the University purchased in 2007 with plans to build research and medical facilities and extend Yale’s prowess in the sciences. Although construction on the West Campus has slowed since the onset of the economic recession, the Smilow Center opened this October near the Medical School campus, and Lynch said he, Levin and other administrators are currently recruiting doctors and researchers to work at the West Campus.
Levin said Snyder was attracted by the opportunity to move SOM to the nation’s top tier of business schools, and saw the business school’s close relationship with the rest of the University as an advantage. The school’s planned new facility on Whitney Avenue and Sachem Street was another selling point, Levin said.
“I think everyone understood that SOM is at an inflection point in its evolution,” Baron added. “Attaining world class status as a school of management education is really within the institution’s grasp.”
Snyder did not respond to requests for comment.
Lynch said he thinks recruitment is especially important during tough economic times because finding the right person can be a great boon to an institution, while choosing the wrong one can be a great burden.
“During the recession, stakes are higher,” he said. “When times are flush, if people don’t work out, it’s okay. When things aren’t going so well, you have to be more cautious.”
Levin said appointments to leadership positions can have a huge effect on an institution in any economic environment.
Pepper agreed that thoughtful recruitment is crucial no matter what.
“It’s the lifeblood of the future,” he said. “During good times, bad times, and in-between times.”
The next major recruitment searches will be for a new University librarian and a new dean of the graduate school.