Online Extra: Gora On Short List for Oregon College Presidency

Gintautas Dumcius

UMass Boston Chancellor Jo Ann Gora is on the shortlist for the presidency of Lewis and Clark College, according to a recent article in a Portland, Oregon newspaper.

Portland’s Oregonian Tuesday reported that Gora was one of three finalists who came to tour the 3,000-student campus this past Monday.

Gora declined to comment on her candidacy, but said, “I am a successful college administrator and I’m frequently sought out for potential positions.” She gets calls from headhunters every month, she said.

“It’s no surprise to us that people in search of talent look to UMass,” said John Hoey, spokesperson for the UMass President’s Office, after issuing a “no comment.”

The news comes as the university readies itself to undergo a New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) evaluation next year, in the middle of a periodic trustee review of Gora’s two and a half year-tenure as UMass Boston’s top administrator, and days before it is set to hold a fundraising gala in the new Campus Center.

From UMass trustees to faculty, many were shocked and surprised to learn of Gora’s candidacy.

“I’m unaware of the information,” said Trustee Karl White, head of both a trustee task force on UMass Boston’s racial climate and Gora’s evaluation team, after a Board of Trustees committee meeting Wednesday morning. “It’s moving right along,” he said of the review, which should be completed over the next sixty days.

Stephen Lenhardt, university treasurer and staffer for Gora’s evaluation team, was on vacation and could not be reached for comment.

“It’s a surprise to me,” said Steven Schwartz, a UMass Boston professor of psychology and faculty representative to the Board of Trustees.

As he was heading to the elevator Tuesday evening, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Paul Fonteyn said, “Honestly, I don’t know the details about it.”

Others who make up Gora’s executive staff referred all inquiries to the university communications department.

“She’s enjoyed a successful and distinguished career and, like other leaders, she receives inquiries and solicitations routinely, but the chancellor remains entirely focused on UMass Boston and the goals she set this year,” which revolve around her three R’s (retention, research, and reputation), said UMass Boston spokesman Ed Hayward. Hayward pointed to her interviews with candidates for a dean for the McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies, preparing for the Building On Our Strengths Gala, and raising scholarship money.

Political Science Professor Emeritus Richard Hogarty, who retired from UMass Boston several years ago and is familiar with presidential searches, in a phone interview Wednesday likened professional academic administrators like Gora to the “circuit riders of the old judiciary,” judges who went from town to town, most famously in the Old West. “They tend to go from one institution to another,” he said.

The other candidates for the Lewis and Clark presidency are Maureen A. Mahoney, the dean of Smith College in Massachusetts, and Thomas J. Hochstettler, the vice president for academic affairs at International University Bremen, the Oregonian reported.

Current Lewis and Clark interim president Paul Bragdon did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

Through an assistant, U.S. District Judge Owen Panner, who is leading the search committee for the college, declined to comment.

If chosen for the job, Gora will be replacing Michael Mooney, who resigned in June 2003 following a scandal involving an unauthorized investment of $10.5 million. The Oregonian reported in a November article that Mooney was the highest-paid university president in Oregon, raking in $314,079 in 2003. Gora, according to 2003 payroll figures, made $185,000.

Twelve thousand students attend UMass Boston, a public urban university which is part of a larger five campus, 60,000 student UMass system. Gora took over as chancellor in August 2001, having been a provost at Virginia’s Old Dominion University for nine years before.

“I like what I’m doing. I think it’s very challenging. I think the university is a great place,” she said in a January interview. “I really enjoy the students and the people who work here. And so, you know, I’m going to keep doing it until it seems right to stop.”

Gora pointed to her record of keeping jobs for long periods of time. “My first job, I was there for seventeen years. I was a provost [at Virginia’s Old Dominion University] for nine years. So I tend to stay and make a difference. That’s what I’d like to do here.”