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The die is cast; following an eight-month search, Hendrix College chooses Ann Die as its ninth president.

The colorful flowers and ancient trees that cover the Hendrix College campus at Conway sometimes play a role in attracting students to the liberal arts school.

But flowers and trees are not what attracted Ann Die, the dean and chief executive officer of H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College at New Orleans.

In May, Die was chosen as Hendrix's ninth president.

Die says the school's academic offerings, extracurricular programs, the quality of the faculty and the quality of the student body all played a role in attracting her to Hendrix.

"It is truly a community of scholars with emphasis on both community and scholar," she says.

Die is also associate provost of Tulane University at New Orleans. Newcomb is the women's liberal arts college of Tulane and has 2,100 students. More than 11,000 students attend Tulane.

Die views Hendrix as a "learning environment where people are respected as individuals and where there is an emphasis on developing each individual's potential. But |there is an~ emphasis on community, also."

The Hendrix community -- students, faculty, trustees, clergy and alumni -- chose Die, concluding an eight-month search.

Joe Hatcher resigned as president last year after 10 years at the school.

The 19-member search committee was criticized for taking so long to make a decision.

The Hendrix board chairman, George Mitchell, says of the wait, "As it turns out, it was sure worthwhile."

Mitchell, president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Arkansas, says picking a president is the "single most important duty the board has."

The search committee was divided into a screening committee and an interviewing committee.

Charles Morgan, chairman and CEO of Conway's Acxiom Corp., is vice chairman of the Hendrix board. He headed the screening committee. Mitchell headed the interview committee.

Morgan's task involved reviewing 150 candidates.

The search committee advertised in national publications and informed selected universities about the application process. Rather than applying directly, Die was recommended to the committee.

A Hendrix graduate, Ann Patton Dawson, who has been on the board for two years, was on a trip to New Orleans when she met a former Arkansan.

The Arkansan was Carla Fishman, who is employed at Tulane.

Dawson mentioned Hendrix's search for a president.

Fishman said she knew someone from Newcomb who would be the perfect match. She warned, however, that Die often was approached with job offers and repeatedly had rejected them.

Die sent a resume to Conway. Her "no thanks" finally changed to a "yes."

The Criteria

Robert Eslinger has taught mathematics at Hendrix for 16 years. Die will be the third president he has worked under.

Eslinger was one of three faculty members on the search committee. He says there were criteria by which every candidate was judged. Comparing candidates to past presidents was not part of the process, according to Eslinger.

Perhaps the most important job for the president of a private institution is raising funds. Die, who headed a strategic planning committee that initiated a $300 million capital drive at Tulane, has the experience.

She doesn't consider fund raising to be her most important job, though.

"I'm not sure a president has a main job," Die says. "A president has a number of responsibilities that have to be kept in balance."

An understanding of what constitutes a liberal arts education is essential. Prior to going to Newcomb in 1988, Die was involved with curriculum planning at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.

She was given the school's annual faculty award for distinguished teaching, research and service. At Lamar, Die was assistant to the executive vice president for academic and student affairs, professor of psychology and director of the university's psychological clinic.

"She has the kind of charisma that excites other people," Eslinger says.

Almost everyone who meets Die uses adjectives such as "dynamic," "perceptive," "articulate" and "engaging" to describe her.

"She just has this enthusiasm about her," says Philip Shell, the 1991-92 president of the Hendrix Student Senate.

He says Die did her homework on Hendrix prior to visiting with the search committee. She addressed concerns at the campus on issues ranging from housing to alcohol use.

Die also knew that only 21 percent of Hendrix alumni give to the college. Comparable private schools enjoy rates of 45 percent and higher.

"I figure that is one of the things she'll address when she takes over," Shell says.

Die says she wants to learn more about the college before listing initiatives. Yet she does have special interests such as fostering opportunities for students to study abroad.

One of the things that impressed Die is that Hendrix is a participant in the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program, which funds international independent studies for students their senior years. Only 50 institutions are invited to participate, and Hendrix has had two participants in the past two years.

Die also would like to make time for teaching at Hendrix. At Newcomb, she taught one psychology course.

"It's important to never lose touch with the classroom and the students," she says.

Die was an honor student in her hometown of Baytown, Texas. She was involved with everything from school publications to student government.

The new Hendrix president earned her bachelor's degree in education at Lamar. She taught in the public schools while obtaining her master's degree in education at the University of Houston.

Die's doctorate in psychology is from Texas A&M University at College Station.

Die is a strong believer in students being involved in more than just academics. She likes the fact that incoming Hendrix freshmen can choose from a variety of three-day cultural and athletic trips. Each freshman is accompanied by two upperclassmen and one faculty member.

"It says a lot about what the commitment to community is," Die says of the program.

It didn't hurt that Hendrix is listed as one of the 19 "best buys in top colleges" by Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine. The school also is rated 29th among the 100 best college buys by the editors of Money.

Hendrix looked good to Ann Die.

And Ann Die looked good to the search committee.

The new president begins work July 6.

"I was hearing that she was a rising star in the academic community, and if we didn't pick her, someone else would," Shell says.

Die also has strong ties to the United Methodist Church, with which Hendrix is affiliated. Die and her husband, clinical psychologist Jerome Die, are members of the Rayne Memorial United Methodist Church at New Orleans.

"She just so superbly filled all the qualifications," Mitchell says.

It's not that the other candidates were lacking.

It's just that those on the search committee viewed Die as someone with even more to offer.
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Author:Rengers, Carrie
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jun 22, 1992
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