March 19, 2013 03:53 PM

An 11-member search committee chose F. King Alexander, president of California State University Long Beach, as the sole finalist for the LSU president's job.

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A California university president was recommended Monday to be LSU's next leader in a newly merged job of system president and chancellor of the flagship campus.

An 11-member search committee chose F. King Alexander, president of California State University Long Beach, as the sole finalist for the LSU president's job. The recommendation came after a closed-door search that began in November and that didn't include public vetting of the candidates.

The LSU Board of Supervisors will vote on the recommendation at a special meeting March 27. Since board members were two-thirds of the search committee and offered statements of praise for Alexander, his hiring next week is expected.

"We were looking for a proven professional who is a collaborative leader, who is a great listener and is an optimist about the future of LSU. We think we found that candidate," said Blake Chatelain, chairman of the search committee and an LSU board member.

Alexander, 49, has led Cal State Long Beach since 2006. Before that, he was president of Murray State University in Kentucky from 2001 to 2006.

Born in Kentucky and raised in Florida, he's also held positions at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana; University of Wisconsin, Madison; and University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

His degrees are in political science and comparative education policy.

"We honestly have captured a rising star," said Steve Perry, a search committee and LSU board member.

LSU Board Chairman Hank Danos said Alexander was chosen after the search panel reviewed more than 30 resumes. He was chosen from among three final contenders.

If hired as LSU's president, Alexander would be in charge of a multibillion-dollar system of four university campuses, a law school and medical schools in New Orleans and Shreveport.

He'd also be jumping into the new job as the university system undergoes a massive restructuring effort that remains incomplete, and as higher education in Louisiana grapples with continued decreases in state funding that have stressed campuses and faculty.

John Lombardi was fired as LSU System president in April, after he clashed with Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration over higher education policy and criticism about his leadership style. LSU Chancellor Mike Martin left the Baton Rouge campus to lead the Colorado State University System. The board then voted to merge the two jobs as part of the restructuring.

Alexander - who oversees a campus with 36,000 students - was expected to visit LSU's Baton Rouge-based flagship campus later this week, for meetings with faculty, staff and students.

"LSU has developed a great reputation due to the work of its faculty and staff and the quality of its students, and I would be honored to be part of that cohesive team as it moves into the future," Alexander said in a statement released by LSU.

LSU said that under Alexander's leadership, Cal State Long Beach improved graduation rates, boosted research and external funding and oversaw a capital campaign that has raised more than $200 million and doubled the university's endowment. He also had to cope with reductions in state financing for the school during the recession.

By choosing Alexander as the sole finalist, the search committee tapped a more traditional candidate with a Ph.D. and higher education background, despite talk of perhaps choosing someone with a resume more centered in business or politics.

In addition to teaching and research, Alexander also has worked in university fundraising, alumni programs and external relations. Perry cited that background among his strengths.

The recommendation of Alexander ends widespread speculation that a board of Jindal appointees would push the governor's economic development secretary, Stephen Moret, for the university system job.