New leadership in Columbia’s Office of Business Affairs

By Samuel Charles

After Columbia’s former Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Business Affairs Michael DeSalle stepped down from the position he held for 22 years at the end of the fall 2010 semester, the college acted within a week to find someone to fill the vacancy. Patricia Heath, a principal partner at the executive services firm Tatum, was named interim CFO and vice president of Business Affairs until the assigned committee finds a permanent replacement.

Before coming to Columbia, Heath held the same interim position at St. Xavier University, Illinois’ oldest university, located on Chicago’s Southwest Side.

Though every institution and organization is different, Heath said what she learned during her 10 months at SXU will help her at Columbia.

“It was an interesting situation,” Heath said. “I hit the ground running and learned a lot about being involved in higher education.”

Tatum is a national company that specializes in filling vacant corporate positions, specifically CFO, CEO and Chief Operating Officer. Currently, Tatum has 37 offices nationwide and employs 1,000 partners.

Heath’s responsibilities at Columbia will not be as rigorous as the ones she had while at SXU, she said.

“At St. Xavier, budgeting, accounting finance, tax pension, employee services and payroll—which is basically human resources—[was] reported directly to me,” Heath said. “I had all of Operations: traffic, security, transportation for their multiple campuses, but here, HR reports directly to the provost.”

Currently, a search for the permanent CFO is beginning. There is nothing in Heath’s contract that would prevent her from filling the position permanently.

Columbia reached out to Tatum when DeSalle stepped down, asking the company for assistance in filling the vacancy. After reviewing possible candidates,

Tatum contacted Heath and set up a meeting between her, Columbia President Warrick L. Carter and Allen Turner, chairman of the board of trustees.

She was also the corporate controller for The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division, which includes all of Illinois and parts of Indiana and Michigan. During her three and a half years with the nonprofit company she centralized all operations in Illinois.

Heath’s professional career began inthe traditional for-profit corporate sector, service industries and technology. From there she moved to nonprofit, health-

care and higher education. Heath also has experience in operations, human resources and insurance.

Heath received her bachelor of science degree in accounting from Northeastern Illinois University and lives in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. The opportunity to stay in Chicago helped Heath decide to come to Columbia. She’s lived in the city for 28 years after growing up in Virginia.

“I’m not going back [to Virginia now; I don’t think I could,” Heath said. Though she is the acting CFO and vice president of Business Affairs, Heath is

not directly employed by Columbia but with Tatum.

“I’m a business partner for the president as well as my peers in the cabinet,” she said. “I’ll offer my expertise in my area, make sure of process improvements, best practices and that we’re all on the same page.”