The Hunt is On: Chancellor Search Committee Picked, Ready

Gintautas Dumcius

The UMass President’s Office this week announced the formation of a nineteen-member search committee made up of faculty, alumni, and others to find a permanent chancellor for UMass Boston.

“This diverse group represents the campus community and also represents the broader community that the University serves,” UMass President Jack Wilson said in a statement.

The nation-wide search is set to replace Jo Ann Gora, who left in August for the presidency at Ball State University. Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs J. Keith Motley, widely viewed as a candidate for the permanent position, has been serving as acting chancellor.

Faculty make up the bulk of the committee. Seven professors will represent most of the six colleges. Kristine Alster, assistant professor and former dean of the College of Nursing, called the search a “wonderful opportunity” and a chance to “secure the kind of leadership that will build on this campus’ strength.”

Other faculty on the committee could not be reached for comment by press time. Associate Provost Winston Langley, a veteran of the UMass presidential search that wrapped up earlier this year, declined to comment.

A total of five UMass trustees will serve, including Dennis Austin, the director of state government relations at Raytheon. “We’re looking for the best individual to fill the position,” he said in a quick phone interview Tuesday afternoon.

The committee will be headed up by UMass trustee Stacey Rainey, former deputy chief of staff to ex-Gov. Jane Swift.

In a statement released by the UMass President’s Office, Rainey cited contributions made by UMB to the city and state and added, “We hope to find a chancellor who can bring that contribution to a new level, and in so doing, make UMass the truly indispensable university.”

Like Rainey, committee members William Kennedy and Robert Sheridan are also Swift appointments to the UMass Board of Trustees. Kennedy is an attorney with the Boston law firm of Nutter, McClennen & Fish, and a former chief of staff to House Speaker Thomas Finneran. Sheridan is the president of Savings Bank Life Insurance. Other trustees include Lawrence Boyle, a senior partner at the law firm of Morrison, Mahoney, and Miller, and the lone trustee to publicly demand for former UMass President William Bulger’s resignation last year.

Representing the students is UMass Boston student trustee Tuan Pham. Pham said the choosing of a permanent chancellor is important to the university’s strategic plan and encouraged students to talk to him about the search and what they’re looking for in the new hire.

Alumni are represented with the President of the UMB Alumni Association Pat Flaherty, Invention Machine Corporation president Mark Atkins, Boston College Vice President Thomas Keady, and both Austin and Boyle. From outside the university system comes Regina McCarthy, from the Governor’s Office of Commonwealth Development who spoke at the 2003 campus convocation event, and Terrence Gomes, president of Roxbury Community College, among others. Gomes was at the press conference in July announcing Motley’s appointment as interim.

With the appointment of the committee the national hunt for a permanent chancellor, soon to be aided by an as-yet-unpicked search firm, gets fully underway. There are plans for the search to end in the spring with a list of recommended candidates given to President Wilson. The appointments come in the middle of the “season” for job announcements.

“In academics, whether it’s for a chancellor or whether it’s for a dean, the season for job announcements, when people look at it, is now,” Provost Paul Fonteyn said in a recent interview on the hiring of a vice provost. “It starts September-October. The latest you ever want to announce anything is November. If you do it later, you don’t get the kind of people you want.”

Many, on and off campus, have praised Motley, who was appointed interim chancellor last July. “The acting chancellor is an excellent individual,” Austin said, adding that the search committee has to make a determination if there’s someone with stronger qualifications. “If there isn’t one, I’d be happy to support the interim one,” he said.

Despite the upcoming national search, the conventional wisdom of many campus community members is that the job is Motley’s to lose.

“I really think that this campus has galvanized around Dr. Motley’s leadership and I think that, at least from my feelings on campus and most everyone I talk to at this point, would love to see him become permanent chancellor,” said Interim Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Charlie Titus, in a recent interview on shakeups in the office of Student Life. “So, part of it is for all of us who want to see that we have to do everything we can to make sure that this is an exciting year for the university, that it’s a good year, that the students needs get met, that we continue to grow and build, which holds well for his leadership. And that gives us a chance to have him as our permanent chancellor and then we can really address some of the other positions.”

Motley has stated that he has always wanted to be a university chancellor or president. “I know I that will be one somewhere,” he told the Mass Media in a September interview. “I hope it’s here, at UMass Boston.”