If you’ve never heard of a man named Jerre Stead, join the club. Like most of the characters in the tawdry drama surrounding the hiring of J. Bruce Harreld to be the next president of the University of Iowa, I’d never heard of Stead until a few weeks ago. In fact, I read an article about him last month, and saw him listed on the search committee roster several times, but I still forgot almost everything I read.
Recently I revisited the article about Stead, who is yet another millionaire donor singing Harreld’s praises, and doing so clarified a couple of points alluded to in the previous post. Specifically, it was noted that although Iowa Board of Regents president and fellow search-committee-member Bruce Rastetter, and chair of the search committee and acting University of Iowa President Jean Robillard, both claim to have recruited Harreld first — even as those claims are at variance with Harreld’s own narrative about how he was nominated — neither Rastetter nor Robillard have had anything to say about how and when they first learned of Harreld. One minute Rastetter and Robillard have no knowledge of J. Bruce Harreld, the next minute they’re committing serial fraud by giving Harreld blatant preferential treatment in a sham search that they could have avoided by hiring Harreld outright.
And no, it makes no sense to me, either, but that’s where Jerre Stead comes in.
The Jerre Stead Connection
Given the degree to which every pro-Harreld voice seems to have been mesmerized by Harreld’s wizardly as a business executive, you would think they would all remember the moment when Harreld’s radiance first illuminated their lives. Yet for Robillard and Rastetter that’s not the case. Thankfully, Jerre Stead is a welcome exception, and finally allows us to connect at least two distant dots in the critical J. Bruce Harreld origin-story timeline. From the Cedar Rapids Gazette, on 9/15:
Stead said he first encountered Harreld earlier in his career, in 1993, while he was working for National Cash Register and Harreld was with Boston Market Company. Stead said he recalls being impressed with Harreld, the team he was on, and its vision for the then-small business.
Harreld’s company ended up using NCR equipment in its 1,300 Boston Market restaurants, according to Stead and media reports.
So twenty-plus years ago Stead makes a sale to Harreld and comes away thinking of Harreld as a really smart businessman. Again, you would think everyone would instantly recall when they first heard of, let alone met, J. Bruce Harreld, but so far Stead is the only person to actually acknowledge the origins of their relationship. Even better, however, Stead also knows — again, unlike the ever-forgetful Rastetter and Robillard — exactly when Harreld pops back into his life in the context of the search committee. From the lede to the same CRG piece:
When J. Bruce Harreld’s name showed up on the confidential list of candidates for the next University of Iowa presidency, search committee member Jerre L. Stead recognized it.
“I remembered him right away,” said Stead, a Colorado-based businessman and UI alumni who has made major donations to the university, including a $25 million gift to the college of business and a $20 million gift to the UI Hospitals and Clinics.
Now, if you’ve been following the Harreld hire at all, you know this second nugget of information allows us to plug Stead into the confusing and at times impossible-to-reconcile timeline surrounding Harreld’s election. Here Stead is stating, categorically, that the first time he learned about J. Bruce Harreld being a nominee or being interested in the open presidency, or even still being alive, is when he saw Harreld’s name on a list generated by the search committee — either directly, as work product of the committee, or as a byproduct of the regents’ contract with Parker Executive Search. Between 1993 and the impaneling of the search committee on 2/25/15, Stead has no contact with Harreld, then suddenly, at some point in the search process, he sees and recognizes Harreld’s name on a list.
As you also know if you’ve been following the Harreld hire, despite the fact that Harreld is now the university’s president-elect, nobody knows when J. Bruce Harreld actually became a nominee, or even who nominated him. Harreld’s own version of his origin story is murky, having to do with a mysterious “president of a major university” making the nomination, after which the search committee reaches out to Harreld. The problem, of course, is that if the search committee reached out to Harreld after he was nominated, then his name would have been on a list at that time. Yet we know from first-hand accounts that Harreld’s name was not on any list when he first visited the University of Iowa campus on July 8th.
(Update 10/21: shortly after posting, Eric Kelderman @etkeld noted the following on Twitter: @Ditchwalk we have reported and both Robillard and @purduemitch have confirmed that Mr. Daniels recommended Harreld.)
As noted in the prior post, there is a big difference between being nominated and actually deciding to apply, which Harreld did not do until after the secret July 30th meetings that Regents President Rastetter arranged with four regents on Harreld’s behalf, at Rastetter’s own place of business in Ames. Those secret meetings took place one day before the closing date for the position, but it’s also clear from the record that at that point Harreld was still undecided. (To underscore how murky the J. Bruce Harreld origin story is, we still don’t even know when Harreld submitted his resume and application to Parker Executive Search, or even if he did.)
We’re not overly concerned with when Harreld was nominated because that’s a formality, but if being nominated put Harreld on the list that Stead saw, and that jogged Stead’s memory about what an extraordinary business visionary Harreld had been two decades earlier, then that’s useful information. It still doesn’t tell us when Stead first saw Harreld’s name on a committee list, and it does nothing to fill in the blanks on when Robillard or Rastetter first learned about Harreld, but it’s a small step forward. In fact, Stead’s statements are particularly helpful in light of similar statements from Sarah Gardial, dean of Tippie College of Business, and Christina Bohannan, president of the faculty senate, in the Gazette on 9/16:
Robillard, who also is vice president of medical affairs for UIHC and was head of the search committee, invited Harreld to campus to speak to a group of about 40 mostly UIHC administrators and physicians to share his perspective on transformational change.
During that July 8 visit, for which Harreld was not paid or reimbursed, Robillard invited the former IBM executive to lunch, along with Rastetter and search committee members Christina Bohannan and Sarah Gardial, both of whom are UI faculty members.
Gardial, dean of the UI Henry B. Tippie College of Business, said she assumed Harreld was a presidential prospect, even though neither she nor Bohannan had seen his name on any official candidate list. The application deadline was July 31.
So on July 8th, when Robillard invites Harreld to speak at UIHC, and hosts a “VIP lunch” for him, with three other committee members in attendance, we know from Gardial and Bohannan that Harreld’s name was not on any list seen by the search committee. Then, at some later date, assumedly but not necessarily prior to the closing date for the position on July 31st, Jerre Stead sees Harreld’s name on a list distributed to the committee. Again, because Harreld has already been to Iowa City his story that he was nominated first, then contacted by the committee, can’t be true, but on July 8th, regardless of Harreld’s standing as a candidate, the sequencing of the events relative to Stead is clear. On July 8th Stead cannot have seen Harreld’s name on a list, and thus cannot have any knowledge that he is considering applying for, or has been nominated for, the position. Only when Stead sees Harreld’s name on a list does he remember Harreld, and realize that J. Bruce Harreld is interested in becoming president of the University of Iowa.
A Timeline Full of Holes
As confusing as all that can be, and I still have to work to keep it straight, Stead’s comments are helpful in two important ways. First, we have now established that at least one person on the search committee knew of Harreld before 2/25/15, when the search committee was impaneled. It’s possible that more people knew of, or had met with, or worked with Harreld prior to that date, but until we factored Stead into the mix no one on the committee who supported Harreld could explain how, and more importantly when, Harreld first came into their life. To his credit Stead is explicit: he first met Harreld in 1993.
Second, although Stead doesn’t fix the specific date when he saw Harreld’s name on a list, he does fix the moment when he and every other member of the search committee not named Rastetter, Robillard, Gardial and Bohannan learn of Harreld in the context of the presidential search. Simply by looking at the paperwork or the electronic files that were sent to the committee we can determine the exact date, and Gardial and Bohannan will almost certainly be able to corroborate that date because it will be the first time that they see Harreld’s name on a list after having met with him in Iowa City. (Although Harreld’s name does appear on a list at some point, some members of the committee did not know until well after the election that Harreld had been in Iowa City on July 8th, or in Ames on July 30th.)
So that’s four committee members who not only know about Harreld on July 8th, they’re in the same room with him, albeit not talking about his interest in the open presidency for reasons that cannot be explained. We also know that Stead, who is also on the search committee, has no idea that Harreld has even entered the picture, because he has yet to see Harreld’s name on any list. Because Gardial and Bohannan are clear that Harreld’s name has not been on any list when they sit down to eat a “VIP lunch” with Harreld on July 8th, Stead must necessarily first learn that his old business associate is interested in the presidency sometime after July 8th.
And yet, despite the fact that Harreld is set to take office in less than two weeks, and despite the fact that Harreld, Robillard and Rastetter are all deemed to be coherent if not competent men, at this moment nobody actually knows how J. Bruce Harreld enters the search and selection pipeline. Leaving aside Stead in 1993, Robillard seems to be the earliest established point of contact, but specifics have not been divulged by either Robillard or Harreld. The earliest firm date we have is July 2nd, when itineraries are sent to Harreld and his wife by Robillard’s chief of staff, but we know by simple logic that the date of their first contact had to be earlier. You don’t send people itineraries if you haven’t talked to them first, including talking about why you want them to come to Iowa City, let alone coordinating travel plans and scheduling available dates and making sure everyone else can be at the table.
There’s also the whole fawning process where Robillard had to explain that he was floored by Harreld’s writings, or whatever initially attracted Robillard’s attention — because there are, again, conflicting narratives. And of course there’s the even more awkward business proposition of telling Harreld that Robillard didn’t want him to come out as a consultant, and he wasn’t asking Harreld to come as a paid speaker, so if Harreld did want to come that was great, but Harreld would have to pay for the trip himself. Probably not an easy sell at first, but then again Robillard is clearly successful in his own right, so at some point he closes the non-deal.
How long does engineering Harreld’s ‘yes’ take? (Note: here we are assuming that Harreld isn’t already in on the whole hijacking-a-presidency thing.) Does it take two weeks, meaning Robillard’s first contact with Harreld is, at the earliest, in mid-June? Does it take a month? Two months? If we go with two months for all the planning and getting-to-know-yous and such, that puts Robillard’s awareness of Harreld as a potential candidate at May 1st, which is earlier than I think anyone currently assumes, but still well after the start date of the search.
Whenever Robillard did first make contact with Harreld, one thing we know for certain is that Stead cannot have been that point of contact. We know that because Stead is explicit that he didn’t think of or remember Harreld until he saw a list sometime after July 8th. So as long as Stead, Robillard and/or Rastetter aren’t hanging out with each other outside the committee proper, I think that’s plausible.
On the other hand, what would be troubling would be Stead, Rastetter and/or Robillard having dealings outside the committee. Because if they’re palling around and it’s June, or even May, it’s not only Stead who has prior knowledge of Harreld, it’s Robillard. Then we have to believe that although all three committee members are looking for a visionary leader for the University of Iowa, and at least two of them already know about Harreld, his name never comes up in conversation.
A Wee Small World
As was pointed out in the press, and during J. Bruce Harreld’s open forum, some of the information on his resume was somewhere between misleading and fraudulent. Specifically, from 2014 until the present, Harreld listed himself as the managing principle of a company called Executing Strategy, LLC, located in Avon, Colorado. As noted in the Gazette, however, no such company existed:
But no business with that name is registered with the Secretary of State’s Office in Colorado, and representatives with an Avon-area chamber of commerce said they have no knowledge of the business. An Executing Strategy LLC was registered with the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 2009 under the signatory James Bruce Harreld, but it was dissolved earlier this year.
Harreld, according to public records, on Feb. 6, 2013, filed three mandatory annual reports for the business for the years 2010, 2011, and 2012. But no reports have been filed since, and the secretary of the commonwealth on June 30 took action to dissolve the business, which listed its services provided as consulting, strategy, implementation, marketing, and turnaround advice.
Harreld’s LinkedIn profile currently lists him as a corporate adviser in the Greater Denver Area and working for General Motors from 2015 to present — although the CV provided by the Board of Regents doesn’t include work with General Motors.
Now, to cut J. Bruce a bit of slack, it seems as if the name for his company comes from a course he taught at the Harvard Business School. And he did have a business under that name in Massachusetts for several years, so it’s understandable that he might have simply ported the name to whatever he was doing in Avon. A little sloppy, obviously, but not a felony.
Still, if you’re about to give a man $4,000,000 to lead a prestigious university, you would be forgiven if Harreld’s resume set off a few alarm bells. Interestingly, however, after you quelled the bells having to do with salesmanship or exaggeration or lying, or whatever you want to call Harreld’s description of himself as a managing partner and his unregistered company as an LLC, you would still hear one tiny bell ringing in the background. Why Avon, Colorado?
Well, it turns out that Avon is about one hundred miles due west of Denver on I-70, and having driven that route more than once I can tell you that it’s lovely country. Also, Denver seems to have been a stop in the legal career of Harreld’s wife, Mary. Yes, there are probably plenty of Mary Harreld’s in the U.S. — hundreds, maybe, or even thousands — but right there on J. Bruce Harreld’s resume you can see that her full name is Mary Gillilian Harreld, and if you do a search for that name in Denver you get this:
So Mary Gillilian Harreld practiced law in Denver, was also registered to practice law in Massachusetts at one point, and recently updated her file in June of 2015. And in 2014 we know that J. Bruce is in the Denver area, and we know his wife has history there, so it makes sense. Except, because we want to be thorough, and you really can’t know how many Mary Gillilian Harreld’s there might be in a great big country with a population of 330 million, there’s also this:
Same name, same location, but also a note about getting her B.S. at Purdue University, which is where J. Bruce Harreld got his Bachelors in Engineering in 1972, which is also noted on his resume. So okay — the Harreld’s move from Massachusetts to Avon/Denver sometime after 2012 or so, J. Bruce hangs out his shingle in the Rockies, and again, it’s all good. Except for that faint little alarm bell.
Now, you may have already forgotten this — I did the first five times I read it — but only moments ago you learned something interesting about Jerre Stead, which is that he is a “Colorado-based businessman”. And that’s correct. IHS, the company Stead ran for thirteen years, and took public in late 2005 to smashing success, is located in Denver, Colorado — specifically, a metro area called Englewood.
Yes, that’s quite a coincidence, but it’s important to keep a couple of things in mind. First, in the metro Denver area there are between two-and-a-half and three million people, compared with three million or so for the whole state of Iowa. So the idea that J. Bruce Harreld might be doing some consulting down at the blacksmith, and see Jerre Stead ambling down main street, is ridiculous. Second, even with the internet, Harreld would have to be looking for Stead, or Stead would have to be looking for Harreld, and what are the odds of that happening after twenty years?
Except…as it turns out, right around when Jerre Stead is thinking of stepping down as the CEO of IHS in 2013, the state is hit with devastating floods that make news across the country. In response, the governor asks Stead if he will function as the state’s chief-recovery officer, and Stead accepts. Apart from any press reports about the appointment, or about the work that Stead does either for the state or IHS during the year, at the end of 2013 Stead is named Businessman of the Year by the Denver Post, in an article which runs on January 5th, 2014. The same year in which J. Bruce Harreld’s resume has him working in and around Denver, Colorado.
Do we know if J. Bruce Harreld saw that Stead story, either in the paper or on local TV news coverage. No, we don’t. And again, given how many people there are in Denver, and how busy everyone is, the likelihood is that he did not. But in the end it doesn’t matter, because from the Gazette we have Stead’s own statement clear as day. He worked with Harreld in 1993, which is what he instantly recalled when he saw Harreld’s name on a list sometime after July 8th. If Stead had seen or meet with J. Bruce Harreld in the previous few months, or even a year earlier, that’s obviously what would have popped into his mind, and it clearly didn’t.
Except…if you read Stead’s quotes carefully, he doesn’t actually say that. What he says is that he first met Harreld in 1993. He doesn’t say when he last met Harreld, or heard of him, or knew of his whereabouts, or whether he had breakfast with him six weeks earlier. And when he says he remembered Harreld’s name after seeing it on a committee list, he doesn’t specifically say that he remembered Harreld from 1993, although that’s obviously inferred.
Again, the idea that Stead might have had some contact with Harreld after 1993, and prior to seeing Harreld’s name on a committee list, is potentially troubling, to say nothing of how dark things become when you start imagining people outside Iowa trying to hijack the presidency of a university inside Iowa, what with all the federal jurisdictional implications. Fortunately, as noted in the previous post, all that’s needed to sort this whole mess out is someone with a badge who has the authority to ask a few simple and reasonable questions about how J. Bruce Harreld came to be the next president of the University of Iowa. Until then, I think we should all just imagine the long laugh that Harreld and Stead had when they finally learned they had been living just down the road from each other for an entire year in a country roughly 3,119,884 square miles in size. Again, what are the odds?
Update 11/02/15: Stead’s lies were exposed in reports on 11/01, detailing prior contact with Harreld directly related to the search process. The earliest point of contact is still unknown, and may predate the 2/25 start date for the search committee.
Here’s Harreld, once again belatedly filling in details only after his own lies of omission are exposed:
Other critics among the UI faculty have expressed concerns about potential conflicts of interest arising from Harreld’s longstanding relationship with Stead, who represented the UI Foundation on the search committee.
“I would say he was more of a coach,” Harreld said to a question about whether he and Stead had ever been in business together. “Yes, I think if you actually go back through, technically, he was working for an organization that was trying to sell something to us. Or I was working with an organization (trying to sell something to him). Both of us have had multiple moves. … I view him as very much a mentor of mine at various stages of my career.”
Neither Stead nor Harreld have so far acknowledged contact prior to ‘early spring’. Both were living in or around, and working in, Denver Colorado at that time, as well as in 2014, and perhaps earlier. It’s also important that Harreld not acknowledge that he worked for Stead at any point, because he was specifically asked that question in an open forum prior to the final vote by the Board of Regents.
— Mark Barrett