Scott Watson Co-Founder
Scott has served clients in the executive search industry for over 30 years. Known for his candor and clarity of focus, our clients appreciate Scott’s insights married with his sense of humor and resolute attention to mission success. Scott brings a unique blend of skills to senior level searches he leads or co-leads. An indicator of success and appreciation relative to client experience and deliverables in any business relationship is repeat business —how many times you are invited back to lead engagements for the same client. Scott has clients for whom he has led over 15 unique searches over a 3-year period for the same organization. He has orchestrated initiatives for land grant institutions, and higher education organizations with and without academic health sciences components.
Beyond higher education institutions, Scott’s three decades of executive search includes serving the leadership needs of hospital/health systems, global software and technology companies, private equity enterprises, MCO’s, insurance companies, service and manufacturing organizations with global footprints, and others. He has placed executives in key mission critical roles across the ‘C-Suite’ and board room, including top leaders of diversity, and brings a “fit” and ROI perspective to institutions and organizations seeking to establish a competitive advantage by securing superior human capital.
Outside of his search responsibilities and over the past 20 years, Scott enjoys sports car racing and high performance driving instruction.
Michael Ballew, M.A, Co-Founder
Michael joined the executive search industry 14 years ago following a 20+ year career in senior-level management with expertise in recruiting, counseling, training, operations, facilitation, project management and workplace diversity. Known for his abilities as a skilled leader and facilitator, our clients and search committees appreciate Michael’s hands-on approach, active partnership and intuitive leadership throughout the search process. An Industrial Psychologist by training, he focuses on the details of all from the needs of the organization to the unique personalities of the key players involved in the hiring decision. His customization of each search experience is paramount to bringing about positive outcomes for the client and search committee, and a positive experience for the candidate.
A registered Native American by heritage and a former corporate diversity and compliance officer, Michael leads the firm’s diversity and inclusion efforts and is committed to bringing clients a diverse slate of qualified candidates. He has also worked with numerous Colleges, Universities, Federal Contractors and other organizations with both customary and unique compliance policies/requirements.
For our Higher Education Practice, he has orchestrated initiatives for land grant institutions, historically black colleges and universities, and higher education organizations with and without academic health sciences components. Outside of Higher Ed, he has served the leadership needs of hospital/health systems, global software and technology companies, MCO’s, insurance companies, service and manufacturing organizations, and others – placing executives in key mission critical roles across the ‘C-Suite’.
Outside of work, Michael is an established artist and outdoor enthusiast. He gives back to the community by directing music and arts camps, and serves as a board member on an arts foundation board.
J.R. Wheless – Co-Founder
Over his 20+ years in the search industry, J.R. has served a broad portfolio of clients across many industry lines. As an executive search executive, he is a jack of all trades. He has led System President, Chancellor and CEO searches for our Higher Education Division. For other sectors, he has placed Board of Directors, CEO’s and other ‘C-Suite’ leaders, and has quarterbacked executive talent decisions with national and international enterprises across the U.S.
J.R. found his passion in higher education and non-profit search and dedicates the majority of his craft there. However, his experience working together with higher education leadership, along with his experience conducting searches for some of the world’s top performing enterprises and organizations, allow him to bring a cross pollination of best practices, recruiting strategies and tactics spanning multiple industries to all of our clients – regardless of sector.
Prior to his career in consultancy, J.R. served our country in the United States Air Force – Space Command Division. J.R. is on the board of a Texas education institution and gives back his time on a foundation board.
Sarah Meffert, Research & Search Operations
Sarah’s brings an extensive background in customer service, research and work-flow, allowing her to combine both interpersonal and analytical skills to coordinate the delivery of successful searches from beginning to end. Sarah’s strengths in communication, customer service, and project management serve to ensure positive outcomes and a positive experience to our clients and candidates.
Prior to joining the firm, Sarah was a recognized industry leader in natural history travel sales and customer service. She assumed the initiative of reformatting the first successful multi-dimensional natural history educational workshop held in the Peruvian Amazon to a student format and personally guided the first two of these groundbreaking programs to the rainforest. This program has expanded to ongoing travel by high schools and colleges throughout the U.S. with similar models adapted for numerous countries abroad.
John M. Rudley, Ed.D, Search Executive Advisor and Subject Matter Expert
John is a true subject matter expert in higher education. He has held numerous leadership positions in higher education, including vice chancellor for business and finance for a 46 institution university system, university president, and interim chancellor of a premier public metropolitan R1 research and teaching institution. Most recently, he served as President of Texas Southern University (TSU), one of the largest public Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in the nation. During his nearly eight-year tenure as President, he instituted substantive and far-reaching changes via administrative, academic, student and outreach initiatives.
In addition to his tenure as a university executive, John served as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, in responding to the requirements of the Chief Financial Officer Act of 1990. As a licensed Certified Public Accountant, he acquired his public accounting experience from Coopers and Lybrand in Los Angeles and Seattle.
John currently consults and serves higher education clients across the nation.
Harris Pastides, PhD, Consultant & Subject Matter Expert – Academia
Dr. Harris Pastides was University of South Carolina’s 28th president where he led USC’s flagship system of eight institutions in 19 geographic locations to higher achievements and unprecedented growth. Under Pastides’ tenure the university saw the USC Honors College rise to the No. 1 public honors college in the nation; celebrated continual top rankings in undergraduate and graduate international business, public health, engineering, nursing and others; rapidly increased research funding; and surpassed a $1 billion capital campaign goal.
Before becoming President of USC, Dr. Pastides served as vice president for research and health sciences and dean of the Arnold School of Public Health and as executive director of the South Carolina Research Foundation. He joined the University of South Carolina as dean of the School of Public Health and as a professor of epidemiology. Dr. Pastides played a key role in the establishment of Health Sciences South Carolina, a consortium of the state’s research universities and leading hospital systems, and an integral part in the development of Innovista, the university’s 500-acre innovation and research district. Prior to joining the University of South Carolina, Dr. Pastides held various positions at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for over 13 years, including professor of epidemiology and chairman of the department of biostatistics and epidemiology.
Dr. Pastides is on the Board directors of Synovus Financial Corporation and the board of South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA), chairman of the South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health, served as Chairman of the NCAA Division 1 Board of Directors. He has also served on a number of professional organizations and civic boards, including the South Carolina Governors School for the Arts and Humanities, S.C. River Alliance, the Council on Research Policy and Graduate Education and EngenuitySC.
Dr. Harris received a master’s in public health, a master’s of philosophy degree in epidemiology and his doctorate degree from Yale University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Albany, State University of New York. Dr. Pastides is a former Fulbright senior research fellow and has received numerous other professional awards and recognitions for his research work.
Ricardo Azziz, MD, MPH, MBA, Consultant & Subject Matter Expert – Academic Medicine and Healthcare
Ricardo is recognized as a thought leader in change management in academia, with a particular focus on mergers and consolidations, and diversity and inclusion in higher education and healthcare.
Ricardo is the former Chief Officer for Academic Health and Hospital Affairs at the State University of New York System (SUNY), the largest academic system in the country. While at SUNY, Ricardo was appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to lead the SUNY Hispanic Leadership Institute.
Ricardo served the dual role of founding President of what is now Augusta University (overseeing the merger of Georgia Health Sciences University and Augusta State University) and as Chief Executive Officer of its health system. Other roles in academic medicine include department chair at Cedar Sinai, Assistant Dean at UCLA, and various roles in academic medicine at UAB.
A Reproductive Endocrinologist, Ricardo completed his fellowship training at Johns Hopkins, and his OB/GYN residency at Georgetown. He holds a medical degree from Penn State and an MBA and MPH both from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). A native of Uruguay, he received his undergraduate education at the University of Puerto Rico. He is a fellow of both the American College of Surgeons and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Ricardo has enjoyed a successful career as a clinician, investigator, teacher, mentor and as a leader. Having served on NIH study sections, FDA panels, state oversight commissions and others, he has a long history of public service. Ricardo currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of ASRM. He was the founding Executive Director of the Androgen Excess and PCOS Society. The author of more than 500 publications, Ricardo is a leading authority on PCOS and androgen excess disorders.
Jerry F. Smith, CFRE, Advancement & Foundation Advisor and Subject Matter Expert
Jerry F. Smith, CFRE (Certified Fund Raising Executive), connects advancement professionals with the right career, both for the individual and the institution.
Author, lecturer, teacher and fund-raising consultant, Jerry founded the J.F. Smith Group in 1991. His mission in fund-raising—to enable clients to fulfill their fund-raising dreams through a unique, educational, professionally-directed development partnership—has proven successful in over 28 years of business.
Following a successful development career as Executive Director of Alumni and Development at Auburn University (including a $110 million dollar capital campaign), Jerry formed the J.F. Smith Group, and has conducted feasibility studies and capital campaigns for clients across the country—from Edmond, Oklahoma, to Washington, D.C., and from Chicago, Illinois, to Orlando, Florida.
Jerry has authored four books on fund-raising. His most recent book, Think Up!…And Achieve Your Fund-Raising Goals, was published in 2018. He is also a popular and respected convention presenter. Jerry has conducted seminars on an assortment of fund-raising topics both here in the United States, for the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), the National Association of Athletic Development Directors (NAADD) and Blackbaud, and in Germany for the Catholic Fundraising Institute. He has taught fund-raising courses at Troy State University and Auburn University and was the recipient of the 2000 NSFRE Award for Civic Philanthropy.
Jerry has served on university boards of trustees, a foundation board, and as university board of trustees president. Jerry has been the recipient of numerous university awards throughout his distinguished career.
Hank M. Bounds, Ph.D., Consultant and Subject Matter Expert
Hank M. Bounds, Ph.D., system President Emeritus of the University of Nebraska, assist institutions and organizations with strategy development, enrollment and cost savings, nationwide executive search, president/chancellor and executive onboarding, executive coaching, board retreats, and more. He serves as consultant to numerous university administrators, Regents/Trustees and executives. Additionally, Hank maintains his academic profile as a professor at the University of South Alabama.
As president of the University of Nebraska, Hank oversaw a period of record growth and collaboration, including all-time highs in enrollment, graduation rates, student diversity, research expenditures and public-private partnerships. He was a champion of attracting more talent to the state to meet workforce needs and improving educational outcomes for Nebraskans, including his leadership of a $200 million-plus fundraising initiative to expand student access and success. He strengthened the university’s relationship with the military and presided over the announcement of a $92 million contract renewal for NU to continue its exclusive research partnership with the Department of Defense. Hank brought new levels of efficiency to the university, implementing and overseeing a successful effort to streamline major administrative functions that resulted in $22 million in savings. At the time of his departure, the University of Nebraska enrolled 52,000 students, employed 16,000 faculty and staff and had an annual operating budget of $2.6 billion.
Hank devoted his career to education early on, and came into his role at Nebraska with almost 30 years of executive experience and a demonstrated record of working with policymakers, business leaders and donors to advance shared goals related to economic growth and quality of life.
Hank proudly served in the Army National Guard before earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi and a doctorate from the University of Mississippi.
Other Team Members
We utilize a team approach to our searches. Others involved will include our team of administrative and operations professionals, researchers, and various trusted advisors with extensive experience in the higher education search industry and extensive years of leadership within higher education and other business/industry sectors.