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Canton presidential search down to final five

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CANTON — SUNY Canton’s presidential search committee met for the last time Tuesday to discuss the five candidates for the college presidency.

The candidates’ names have been made public one at a time as each visited the campus during the past month. They are:

n Peggy Bradford, vice president for academic affairs and chief academic officer at Baltimore City Community College in Maryland.

n Philip A. Conroy, president of Vermont Technical College.

n Mary H. Gresham, vice provost for educational collaboration and engagement at the SUNY Buffalo.

n Christopher M. Reber, executive dean at Venango College of Clarion University in Pennsylvania.

n Zvi Szafran, vice president for academic affairs at Southern Polytechnic State University in Georgia.

These five candidates were chosen from among nearly 100 hopefuls, narrowed down by their applications, interviews by phone and in person, and finally campus visits.

The process was kept strictly confidential to avoid alerting the candidates’ current employers. Their names were not made public until they set foot on campus.

They come from varied backgrounds, but all have a long history of college leadership.

“We wanted the candidate who could do the job, whether they’re from Vermont or Buffalo or Chicago,” said College Council Chairman Ronald M. O’Neill, who heads the 16-member search committee.

At Tuesday’s private meeting, the committee discussed which candidates to recommend to the College Council. This decision cannot be disclosed, Mr. O’Neill said. All five candidates could have been forwarded to the council, but it may be only three.

The council will meet privately Monday, and decide which three candidates to recommend to SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher.

Finally, Ms. Zimpher will recommend a final candidate to the SUNY Board of Trustees, which is expected to pick the college’s next president early next month.

There is no such thing as a perfect candidate, Mr. O’Neill said.

One choice might have a strong academic background but less financial experience, while another might thrive at college development yet lack academic clout.

“What we have to do is balance all those pluses and minuses,” he said.

The search has progressed smoothly thanks to a council that was able to work together and be open with their disagreements, Mr. O’Neill said.

“It was a learning experience and a pleasurable experience,” he said.

Joseph C. Hoffman, the college’s current acting president, elected not to pursue the permanent position.

The college has been searching for a president since the retirement of longtime leader Joseph L. Kennedy in 2012.

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