The presidential search committee seeking a successor to University of Utah President Chase N. Peterson will hire an executive headhunter to help find qualified candidates.

Commissioner of Higher Education Wm. Rolfe Kerr said this is the first time professional consultants have been used in a search for a Utah college or university president.He said it was felt that a consulting firm with a successful track record in higher education could facilitate the search, broadening the nationwide pool of candidates. One key service provided by the consultant will be to identify key candidates, with a concerted effort at finding women and minority candidates.

The committee, which on Monday received a draft of the proposed request for the consultants, expects to hire the consultant by Dec. 15. The consultant's other duties will be to contact prospective candidates, do reference checks and help prepare and present the employment offer to the new president.

The headhunter, however, isn't the only source for candidates. Kerr told the committee that his office has already received 50 nominations. Notices advertising the position have run in The Chronicle of Higher Education and other education publications.

The commissioner said he expects 100 to 200 applicants by the tentative Feb. 1 deadline. The deadline, however, may be changed by the consultant.

The committee's tentative schedule calls for screening of the candidates in February and March, visits to the campus by the candidates in March and April and selection of the new president in April. Peterson will retire June 30, and the new president will assume office July 1.

The committee spent a good part of its meeting Monday brainstorming about what qualifications it would like in a president and the university's strengths and weaknesses. No specific qualifications were set. As with past presidential search committees at other schools, this one expects to look at institutional needs and match those to candidate qualifications.

Committee Chairman Ian Cumming asked the committee's faculty representatives if the U. community would accept a new president who wasn't an academician.

The basic answer he received was "no." Linda Amos, dean of the College of Nursing, said the new president, to be credible, must have strong academic credentials, while John Roth, professor of biology, said a new president can't succeed without understanding the problems of a university.

The new president can possess a Ph.D., or doctorate in medicine or law and have worked as a university administrator, but he or she needs to have taught in university classrooms and published professional work "to really understand what a university is about," said L. Jackson Newell, professor of educational administration.

To gather a wide range of faculty-staff comments on university needs and presidential qualifications, Amos suggested that the committee sponsor two or three public meetings on campus. Six faculty members and one staff member sit on the search committee.

James Jardine, Institutional Council chairman, also suggested sending letters to key alumni, while Kenneth Washington, associate professor of theater, wanted the committee to reach out for comments from groups or individuals who have felt disenfranchised by the U.

Committee members indicated they would work out a plan to gather U. and community comment at its Dec. 7 meeting.