COLUMBUS, Ohio — Rod McDavis spends his days helping universities find their next president as the managing principal of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.
When he learned about Ohio State University President Kristina Johnson’s decision to leave after two years, he says it took him by surprise, sort of.
“I'm always surprised when I hear a tenure for a presidency that is shorter than five years. We have noticed a trend across the country that more presidents are stepping down in four to five years. It used to be six or seven,” McDavis said.
The university and Johnson aren’t saying what led to her decision to step down.
McDavis says he doesn’t know but can understand why Johnson decided to leave.
“Certainly, coming out of the pandemic, probably most presidents were working seven days a week and the stress and strain of the job wears on you over time,” he said.
10TV went to Johnson's Bexley home and her office but was told she was in meetings all day and was unavailable for comment.
McDavis says university presidents, especially those who lead some of the nation’s largest universities like Ohio State, must have certain traits to survive the job.
“You have to have grit. You have to have thick skin. You have to be willing to take some hits along the way, you have to weather some crisis, weather some arrows that are going to come your way because not everyone is going to agree with everything you say,” McDavis said.
10TV has learned that the Board of Trustees knew a month ago, that Johnson announced she was leaving.
So what kind of President should the university hire next?
“You want someone who understands the medical center, that's such a significant part of Ohio State,” McDavis said.
McDavis says the demands to retain and recruit the best and brightest professors and students, and fundraise require a unique set of skills.
“More institutions are looking for people who have a background with recruitment, retention and graduation success. Everybody wants someone who can walk on water,” he said.
Despite reports of Johnson leaving under a cloud of an investigation, the university tells 10TV, “there was no investigation and that an outside consultant was brought in to assist in the president's performance review, but no review took place.
"The board was aware of President Johnson's intent to leave the university in advance of the November board meeting and therefore an annual review was not completed," the spokesperson said.