Pattenaude a finalist for UMS chancellor

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University of Southern Maine President Richard L. Pattenaude, who is credited with growing USM to rival the flagship University of Maine at Orono, is one of three candidates for chancellor of the University of Maine System.

The announcement was made Tuesday by Margaret Weston, chairwoman of the search committee and the UMS Board of Trustees.

The other two candidates are Warren Fox, an administrator for the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Higher Education; and James L. Applegate, vice president at the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.

Pattenaude, 60, has been USM president since 1991 and lives in Gorham. Applegate lives in Kentucky. Fox lives in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

In a statement, Pattenaude said Tuesday that he’s honored to be one of the finalists and is looking forward to the search process.

“It would be inappropriate for him to comment any further,” said his office manager, James O’Brien.

The University of Maine System trustees began a search for a new chancellor following the resignation of Chancellor Joseph Westphal in June. Former Chancellor Terrence MacTaggart returned to the job he held before Westphal resigned.

Those familiar with Pattenaude credit him for improving and growing USM.

“No question it would be a loss for USM. He was an unusually outstanding president. But to me it’s clearly a gain for the University of Maine System,” said Betty Robinson, who was dean of the L-A College from 1996-03, and teaches there today. L-A College is a campus of USM.

Pattenaude understands where public higher education needs to be, is a consensus builder, and is “sophisticated about the political system in which the university operates. He gets it,” Robinson said.

Roger Philippon, a former L-A College administrator and today a dean at Central Maine Community College, agreed.

Since Pattenaude took over USM in 1991, it’s grown in enrollment, building expansions and faculty development, Philippon said. “USM is a dramatically improved institution from the one he found when he got here,” he said. “He’s uniquely well qualified to be chancellor of the University of Maine System. He’s proven through his many years at USM to be a man of vision, determination.”

Robinson and Philippon said Pattenaude has been a strong supporter for the Lewiston campus, including lobbying for it in the Legislature. Pattenaude frequently attends events at the Lewiston campus. “He was committed to having a strong university presence in this county,” Philippon said.

Pattenaude’s achievements as USM president, according to USM’s public affairs office, include adding 12 undergraduate degrees, seven graduate programs, and the institution’s first doctoral program. He’s taken the number of corporate partners from 10 to 135, leading two capital campaign initiatives, one that raised $21 million, another soon-to-be-completed $25 million campaign.

Trustee chairwoman Weston said Tuesday that one of the most important qualities they’re looking for in the new chancellor is leadership, both internally and externally.

The chancellor needs to be capable of articulating the role the university plays in Maine outside the system, and help motivate internally so each university achieves its goals, Watson said.

Among the biggest challenges facing the system “is the constant challenge of funding,” she said. “We need to ensure every student has the ability and is able to get a university education. … Ultimately it’s all about the students, that they get the very best university education, one that enables them to be competitive.”

Each candidate will spend four days in late January and early February in interviews and video conferences with search committee members, students, employees and others across Maine. Their visit and interviews will beginning in Portland and conclude in Presque Isle.

The search committee will forward a recommendation to the full board in February, Weston said. The hope is the new chancellor will assume office by July 1, she said.

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