Florida Atlantic University trustees chose John Kelly Friday as their next president, over two other nominees which included long-time political insider and former Sen. George LeMieux.
Kelly was previously vice president for economic development at Clemson University, reports the News Service of Florida.
LeMieux was an early favorite, seen by observers as the better fundraiser, but at least one trustee saw Kelly as a “less controversial” and “safer” pick.
LeMieux, former adviser to Gov. Charlie Crist until a falling out after Crist left the GOP, is currently the chair at the Gunster Law Firm.
Although LeMieux was a non-academic candidate, trustees of the Boca Raton-based school saw his Tallahassee affiliations as both potential strengths and weakness, something that could change with prevailing political winds. Trustees also admired LeMieux for his extensive interview preparation, knowledge of Florida, and leadership abilities.
Christopher Earley, Dean of the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University was the third finalist.
The FAU selection committee narrowed the list of applicants last week, dropping Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, for a time seen as a front-runner, reports the News Service.
Kelly will lead a campus facing scrutiny in the past year over a $6 million award for the school’s football stadium naming rights by private prison firm GEO Group.
Other controversies were the administration’s response to an exercise where students had to write the name Jesus to stomp on it later, and blog postings by a professor suggested the staging of the mass elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and the Boston Marathon bombings.
Mary Jane Saunders resigned in May to return to a faculty position, saying “controversies” were “distracting to all members of the University community.”