HOW RYERSON SNAGS THE VERY BEST

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By Josh Bailie

It’s time again for Ryerson to put on its best suit and start courting candidates for a senior admin position. The Chang School needs a new dean and now the search — which could take a year and cost $50,000 to hire a head hunting company — is underway.

While it’s too early to know what lengths Ryerson will go to in order to attract the new dean, history has shown that if Ryerson wants a specific candidate badly enough, they’ll do the best they can to lure them in. In 2003, Ryerson needed an executive to oversee marketing, alumni relations and fundraising — a vice president university advancement. Former president Claude Lajeunesse described Adam Kahan as “the ideal candidate for the job.”

Kahan had raised $3 billion US for organizations in Canada, the United States, England, Israel and South Africa and was the founder and co-president of New York consulting firm ABK Associates.

Ryerson flew him across the border for dinners and schmoozing opportunities with Ryerson’s bigwigs — all standard protocol when a university entertains potential top employees.

In the last five years, Kahan raised $100 million for Ryerson and is the university’s highest paid employee, pulling in $334,375 in 2007.

But his wallet could be thicker.

While Ryerson was laying on the charm, organizations back in the United States had more money to offer him.

Kahan said he chose Ryerson to be a part of the university’s exciting future.

Ryerson doesn’t draw people in with money. The school offers some of the lowest administrative salaries compared to other universities in Ontario, though the pension package is secure and the benefits package is competitive. Health and dental insurance, moving costs and cell phones as well as computer equipment and purchasing cards are all included.

Instead Ryerson tries to flaunt its reputation to draw in the top administrators.

“You have to create an environment and a reputation that the very best people want to be a part of,” said President Sheldon Levy.

It worked on Kahan.

“I wanted to be a part of a school with a positive growth trajectory,” Kahan said, adding that he “didn’t know and didn’t care” that he would grab the institution’s top salary.

“Good students and a good city are more important than another $5,000,” agreed vice president research and innovation Tas Venetsanopoulos, who added that Ryerson’s location in downtown Toronto is an asset.

But Ryerson has been turned down. Levy said most people who say no to the shortlist do so because they have a good deal where they are.

Linda Grayson, vice president administration and finance, said when administrators have declined a position at Ryerson, it could have been about the money, but they’ll never say it.

“They don’t know if they’ll be dealing with us again in the future,” she said.

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