Alan Shepard was almost Ryerson’s president

Alan Shepard, president of Concordia University, was offered the position of Ryerson’s next president, just before Sheldon Levy was quietly approached and asked to remain in the position.

Two independent sources close to the presidential search committee confirmed to The Ryersonian on March 9 that the deal fell apart at the last minute, amidst rumours that he was being considered for the position.

A senior recruiting professional said Tuesday that it’s highly unusual the search committee would not have a second choice.

Grant Robinson, the national vice president of the executive search division at David Aplan Group, a headhunting firm, said that in executive searches it is very uncommon for there not to be a viable second option for the job.

Shepard’s name had been circulating for weeks as the presidential search committee, established to find a replacement for Levy before his retirement in June, narrowed their search. Last week The Ryersonian reported that Shepard was one of two names being considered for the presidency.

In a statement on March 5, Shepard said that he would not be leaving Concordia. “I wish Ryerson well, naturally, but I am not the next president of Ryerson.”

Shepard’s office said on March 10 that it would be offering no further comment.

In a message to Concordia’s Board of Governors, Shepard reiterated that he would not be leaving the university.

“I believe it is important to set the record straight – I have no intention of leaving Concordia.”

Shepard was provost and vice-president academic of Ryerson from 2007 until 2012, when he left to become Concordia’s president.

Prior to Shepard’s arrival, Concordia was in the midst of a turbulent period of turnover in the administration. Since 2005, Concordia has had five presidents, one of whom returned as interim before Shepard was hired.

On March 6, the search committee announced that despite a 13-month hunt to find Levy’s successor, no suitable candidate had been brought forward, and Levy would be staying on.

“We had sincerely hoped that at this time we would be announcing the completion of our search,” said Janice Fukakusa, chair of the Board of Governors and search committee, in a statement.

“However no candidate for the position is being brought forward to the community.”

At a press conference later that morning, Levy said that while the move had not been part of his plans, he was looking forward to a chance to continue his work at the school.

He said the extension will allow him to finish some of the projects he lined up for Ryerson, including the Church Street development, acquiring the Empress Hotel property and developing a new residence.

“It’s not like I’m going into hard labour. I’m going back to something I love doing,” Levy said. “I’ve always said, it’s the best job in the world … someone didn’t get the best job in the world.”

Levy announced in December of 2013 that he would be leaving the university at the end of the 2014-2015 school year, in accordance with a bylaw that requires 18-months’ notice before vacating the position.

Levy has been president of Ryerson for two five-year terms since 2005. University bylaws previously limited a president to two terms in office, but the rules were amended by the Board of Governors in 2012 to allow a president to hold consecutive five-year terms with no hard cap.

Levy has been referred to as a “city-builder” for his work in expanding Ryerson within the downtown core.

He oversaw the development and opening of the Digital Media Zone and the Student Learning Centre (SLC) on Yonge Street. He was also responsible for spearheading a move to acquire the former Maple Leaf Gardens, now the Mattamy Athletic Centre.

However, Levy’s tenure as president has also known some controversy. He was accused of disrespecting Toronto’s history when the school declined to display the Sam the Record Man sign on the SLC.

Details on the offer and why Shepard turned it down are still unclear.

Levy’s successor was set to take office in July.

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