Shao withdraws as Winthrop presidential finalist

Just days before Winthrop University trustees intend to make a decision about the school’s 11th president, one of the three finalists – College of Charleston Dean Alan Shao – has removed his name from consideration.

The Winthrop Board of Trustees is scheduled Friday afternoon to consider hiring the school’s next president. Still in the running are Dan Mahony, dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Services at Kent State University in Ohio; and Jeff Elwell, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.

Shao, currently dean of the College of Charleston School of Business, withdrew from the search this week, he told The Herald late Wednesday. He left the finalist pool “on very good terms” with Winthrop leaders, and Shao now plans to focus his attention on another opportunity as a finalist in a separate, private search, he said.

Shao was negotiating an employment contract with Winthrop trustees at the time he withdrew his name, he said. He announced his decision to some colleagues at the College of Charleston early Wednesday morning via email.

He told The Herald on Wednesday night that Winthrop has a lot to offer and the president’s job “is a tremendous opportunity for the right person.” He and Winthrop, though, are not the right match, Shao said.

The school “deserves a better fit than I could give,” Shao said, adding that he was impressed with the trustees’ interview process and the search consultant’s work.

Shao said he understood that he was the only finalist that Winthrop trustees were negotiating with this week. But board Chairwoman Kathy Bigham said she was empowered by the trustees to have conversations with more than one finalist.

All finalists have strong qualifications, Bigham said. Winthrop trustees have been pleased with the presidential search and look forward to making a decision soon, she said.

Over the past several days, trustees have met privately twice to discuss the three presidential finalists they named last month. Those meetings took place after Elwell, Mahony and Shao each made on-campus visits and presentations. Before that, Winthrop officials spent nearly six months recruiting candidates, vetting applicants and meeting with people hoping to be the next president.

Trustees are likely to vote around 2 p.m. on who will be Winthrop’s 11th president. The meeting will begin at 1 p.m., at which time public comment will be accepted. After that, trustees will convene behind closed doors to deliberate before voting in public session.

To register for public comment, contact Kimberly Faust at or 323-2225 by 8:30 a.m. on Friday.

Winthrop is looking to fill its presidential post, which was left vacant last summer after trustees fired President Jamie Comstock Williamson. Debra Boyd, the school’s provost and chief academic officer, is Winthrop’s acting president until a president is named.

Go to for previous Winthrop presidential search coverage.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068