BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Deval Patrick said Monday he wants the next president of the University of Massachusetts system to have “broad wings” and experience in national academic circles, following a report a former congressman is one of the leading candidates.
The governor said the replacement for retiring President Jack Wilson must be able to raise money outside the state and also represent the university in the upper echelon of public higher education across the country.
“I think we have a real opportunity here to get someone who would bring some national stature to the campuses,” Patrick said after being briefed on the search by two university trustees. “It helps to raise the profile of the campuses, because more and more they’re going to have to do outreach beyond the Legislature for funding and for innovations.”
The Boston Globe reported that Patrick officials are concerned about the political fallout as the search appears to be narrowing to UMass-Lowell Chancellor Martin Meehan. Meehan resigned from Congress in 2007 to take over leadership of his alma mater and has received generally positive reviews during his relatively brief
foray into academia.
The search is being led by a national firm and a search committee led by the trustee’s vice chairman, Fall River businessman James Karam. He and board chairman Robert Manning presented the briefing to the governor.
While the appointment will ultimately be made by the university’s 19-member board, the governor can hold sway over it since he appoints 17 of those members. Many of the trustees are also health care and financial services executives, as well as lobbyists, putting them in contact with the government bureaucracy controlled by the governor.
Patrick is especially concerned about the fallout from political appointments after he was lambasted last year when he tried unsuccessfully to appoint state Sen. Marian Walsh to a $175,000 state post that had long been vacant. He has since tried to block a pay raise for the executive director of the Massachusetts Port Authority, and he reportedly wants the new president of the $2.8 billion UMass system to be paid no more than Wilson, who earns approximately $550,000.
Asked if he was concerned about a politician or former politician being appointed to oversee the five UMass campuses, Patrick said: “I know what you’re asking me, and I haven’t expressed a view about any particular candidate and I’m not going to. I don’t have a favorite candidate.”
He added: “I have a lot of confidence and excitement about the potential of the University of Massachusetts, and I think if we’re going to meet that potential then I think we have to get somebody who has broad wings, if you know what I mean, who has lived in that world, who has worked in that world and who can them step up their already high game.”
Patrick, the first black governor of the state, also said he was concerned about diversity. He recently nominated the first black chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court.
“I have been very clear that I think a fair and open process means a diverse pool, and they showed me some statistics on that as well,” the governor said.
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