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ACS Comment: Update on the new ACS CEO search

by Paul W. Jagodzinski, chair, ACS Board of Directors
August 19, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 29


Paul Jagodzinski
Credit: Courtesy of DS Photo
Paul Jagodzinski

We’re searching for a new American Chemical Society CEO. Earlier this year, Tom Connelly informed the ACS Board of Directors that he plans to retire at the end of 2022.

Connelly joined ACS as the CEO in February 2015 and will complete 8 years in that role at the end of 2022. He has provided significant leadership guided by his dedication to ACS’s mission, vision, and core values; his carefully considered decisions; and his concern for members, volunteers, staff, and friends of ACS. Connelly has helped guide our society through unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. ACS is stronger than it has ever been and I thank Connelly, on behalf of all of us, for his leadership.

The board has been busy with the preliminary stages of the search for ACS’s next CEO. A subset of the board reviewed the existing position description and updated it for this search to emphasize the complexity of ACS (member needs, shared governance, and the international nature of ACS Publications and CAS) and our mission, vision, and core values.

Through an open search process, a different subset of the board selected talent acquisition specialists Korn Ferry International to assist us with the search. Korn Ferry has assisted us with recruitment in the past and understands the many facets that make up ACS. In addition to advertising the position, Korn Ferry is reaching out to an extensive network of organizations and individuals to solicit recommendations and applications from diverse, highly qualified individuals. This process is already underway.

The commitment to the future success of ACS is widespread and heartfelt.

The entire board has also considered a suite of leadership styles and developed a confidential ranked list of the styles that are best suited for the CEO of ACS. The required hard skills are detailed in the position description, which is available on the Korn Ferry website. The posting is appearing in C&EN for six issues starting with Aug. 1/8 (see inside back cover in this week’s magazine) and it is on the ACS website.

As I’m sure you realize, confidentiality is an essential component of a search at the CEO level. For that reason, I am only at liberty to share an overview of our process and will only be able to provide limited updates as we progress forward. Do know that I will provide as much information as possible.

With the need for confidentiality in mind, I am able to share our current target timeline. During late September, a subset of ACS Board and Executive Leadership Team (ELT) members will review résumés and develop a list of semifinalists. During mid- to late October, interviews with these semifinalists will allow a different subset of board and ELT members to develop a list of finalists. During early November, we will conduct further interviews and extensive vetting of these individuals. Shortly after these interviews, we plan to identify the individual who will be offered the position and will join us on Jan. 1, 2023, as our next CEO. Should this tentative schedule not be met, Connelly has agreed to continue in his role temporarily, but the board is committed to meeting the Jan. 1, 2023, deadline.

Many groups and individuals who would like to contribute to the search process have contacted me. The commitment to the future success of ACS is widespread and heartfelt. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to include everyone in the search process. Instead, the board and ELT, who work most closely with the CEO, will represent the various stakeholders. These 23 individuals are committed to a fair, open, inclusive, and comprehensive search process. To reiterate, an early-stage Résumé Review Group will develop the list of semifinalists, and a Candidate Screening Group will develop a list of finalists. Board and ELT members will interview the finalists in person. Although the board is the hiring body for the CEO position, given that the CEO is an officer of the society, technically the board will elect the next CEO. Connelly is not involved in the process of selecting his successor.

There is something that everyone can do to help. Please share our search widely among your friends and networks and encourage qualified candidates to apply. The best person for the ACS CEO position may be perfectly happy in their current position and not aware of the opportunity. You can help!

Recruiting and hiring the next CEO is the most important service to ACS that the board will engage in during the remainder of this year. We understand and embrace this responsibility.

Because of the importance of protecting the confidentiality of the people who apply, there will be limited official communication about the details of the search as we move through the process. I will keep you as informed as possible, but the next official communication may be the announcement of our next CEO.

Thanks for all you do for ACS. We’re all in this together!

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.



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