Most of you know that I live in Waleska, my favorite place on Earth. People nationwide must have heard that it is a good place to be, too. Over a year ago, when Reinhardt University advertised for applications for the person who would be the next president and thus be moving to Waleska, 70-plus responded.
I am proud to say I was on the Search Committee to go through those applications, conduct some of the interviews and recommend the person we thought was the best person for the job. Without a doubt, we got it right.
Forrest Gump, unknowingly, described how the relationship would be between Reinhardt University folks and their new president, Dr. Kina Mallard. They are like peas and carrots.
If you are one of those who does not know Dr. Mallard when you see her, let me give you some pointers. If you are on campus, she may be riding on her Reinhardt Blue-and-Gold decorated golf cart, a gift from her husband, Steve Deitz.
If she is attending an athlete event — I am not sure she ever misses one — she will be dressed casually. Her attire may be completed with her Reinhardt Blue athlete shoes with their Reinhardt Gold shoestrings.
Of course, when keeping office hours or at any of the many things she does in her academic role, she is very professionally dressed.
Incidentally, there were some discussions about what title Reinhardt’s first lady president’s spouse would be given. After getting to know Steve Deitz, some of the students nailed it. They refer to him as the First Dude. He is a professional, too, with a highly successful career. I plan to tell more about him in a future column.
Dr. Mallard is entirely too nice to comment about it, but some folks do not know how to pronounce her first name correctly. She simplifies it. Kina, rhymes with China. However, most of us are safe. We will call her Dr. Mallard anyway.
When I was appointed to be a member of the Search Committee, I had no idea of the wide range of people who wanted the job. It was no surprise that vice presidents of other colleges and universities applied. Others who were sitting presidents of some colleges applied, too.
It was the lawyers and medical doctor who applied that did surprise me. I would not have been surprised with their wanting to head a school of law or a school of medicine, but I would never have dreamed of their wanting to be Reinhardt’s president.
You may remember that a press conference was held to announce Dr. Mallard’s selection.
“That feels good,” Dr. Kina Mallard said when she came to the podium to a rousing, standing ovation after the chairman of the board, Billy Hasty, announced she had been selected to be the 29th president of Reinhardt University.
It was apparent that she had done her homework. She was dressed in the college’s colors.
It felt good to everyone in the room, too. Out of those 70-plus applicants, Kina Mallard was definitely the cream of the crop.
Those of us on the Search Committee felt especially good. After extensively studying all of the 70-plus applications, we, over a few months, had gone from a pool of 70 applicants to eight to three and then to one.
History was made that day. Reinhardt, established in 1883, would have a lady holding the top position for the first time when she began her tenure after President Thomas Isherwood’s retirement.
After the press conference, eager to be on her new job, Dr. Mallard “dressed down” before going to an athlete event taking place at that time. Then she and the new First Dude returned home to Jefferson City, Tennessee, to begin packing for their move to the best place on Earth.
I believe there are three tried-and-true measures to consider in determining the success of the leader of a private college. First, he or she must attract and retain an outstanding faculty, staff and student body. That is a must to ensure high academic standards and efficiently operate the institution. Dr. Mallard has done this well.
The second is for that individual to be a “people person” who gets along with most everyone. Without a doubt, Dr. Mallard excels at that. It seems she is everywhere. From student productions to meetings of the Chamber of Commerce, Kina Mallard is there.
Last, and perhaps the hardest, is to have the ability to raise significant funds. With the recent announcement that Dr. Austin and Ms. Bea Flint have contributed $1 million to the college, Dr. Mallard has cleared that hurdle, too.
Plus, she makes those who give any amount in support of Reinhardt, from $10 to millions, feel equally important.
So, congratulations, Kina Mallard. May your years at Reinhardt University be many.