Claude Lajeunesse (left) and Dennis Mock (right).

Photo Courtesy Ryerson University

Dodging the rumour mill

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By Jordan Press

About six years ago Ryerson President Claude Lajeunesse denied rumours he was leaving Ryerson to become the University of Ottawa’s president.

As rumours surface about who m ay take the top spot at Ryerson next year, those said to be interested in the presidential post are trying to put similar rumours to rest.

The search committee has not had its first meeting and already there are three names being tossed around as potential presidents: Ryerson’s former vice president academic Dennis Mock, National Arts Centre CEO Peter Herndorff, and Trent University President Bonnie Patterson.

Currently president at Nipissing University, Mock wouldn’t give a definite answer to the tumour that he may want the job at Ryerson. His contract with Nipissing ends soon, but he said right now he’s committed to them.

Mock couldn’t say why his name came up, but it showed people at Ryerson still like him.

“I’m flattered I’m considered,” he said, “but I’m in a position here (at Nipissing) where I cant comment on the situation.”

Nipissing is currently conducting its own presidential search.

Herndorff was unavailable for comment, but Jayne Watson, a spokeswoman for the NAC, said their CEO’s contract has been extended until 2005, the same year Lajeunesse steps down.

His contract can be renewed beyond that if the NAC board of governors decides to do so.

Watson said she didn’t know what plans Herndorff has for after his current contract expires. But she pointed to the fact Herndorff has publicly stated he is happy where he is.

As for coming to Ryerson, Watson said no one has approached Herndorff about the job and his name probably came up as a hope.

“I think that any organization would be thrilled to have a Peter Herndorff,” Watson said. “But he’s here until 2005.”

Herndorff lives in Ottawa during the week, working at the NAC, then spends the weekend at home in Toronto where his wife and children live.

Trent University President Bonnie Patterson could not be reached for comment. A spokesperson said Patterson is “definitely well engaged” at Trent. Last year, the university extended her contract until 2009, giving her a second term as Trent’s president.

Patterson was at Ryerson from 1990-95. She was dean of business, the first woman to be named dean in Ontario. Rumours have circulated she was positioning herself for a return to Ryerson. To come back to Ryerson, she would have to quit as president at Trent.

Search committees are formed 18 months before the end of a president’s term because it may take that long to find a candidate the board of governors feels is right for the job.

This presidential search committee differs from the review committee Lajeunesse faced in 1998. At the time, the board was deciding whether to extend his contract after concerns arose about his performance as Ryerson’s head.

The review board read 57 letters from facility, staff and students; conducted 25 interviews with government and university officials, as well as corporate executives and past board of governors members; and held a hour and a half interview with Lajeunesse before offering him another five-year term starting in 2000.

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