Top Secret: Search for the UMass President

Gintautas Dumcius

“Loose lips will sink the UMass ship” appears to be the mantra of presidential search committee members as they forge ahead in their quest for a new UMass president by springtime.

Putting a premium on candidates’ privacy, most repeated calls to search committee members for comment went unreturned, or got forwarded to Bob Connelly, a spokesman for the UMass president’s office, who has been put in charge of dealing with press inquiries. An e-mail circulated several weeks ago by the co-chairs amongst committee members reminded them not to talk to the press, forward inquiries to Connelly, and observe candidate privacy.

“On the one hand, I want to talk about it,” said one member, adding that on the other hand there was the privacy of the process, which they must uphold.

Search committee member Eugene Isenberg, chairman and CEO of Nabor Industries, and alumnus of UMass Amherst, called back from his Houston, Texas headquarters to say those in the running are “good candidates.” Isenberg, after whom Amherst’s college of management was named, then offered to tell all about the search process, before breaking into laughter and saying, “I was just pulling your leg.”

There is a “little bit of ambiguity and fluidity” to the search process, according to Connelly. The number of candidates is in the “high single digits. There are some candidates who are “100% committed,” while the university continues to court those who aren’t.

Over the last three weeks, committee members have been meeting with all the candidates, looking for other people who might be interested and moving towards finalists, said UMass Trustee Dennis Austin, search co-chair and director of state government relations for Raytheon Co.

Connelly confirmed that one or two of those meetings were out of state, as is the norm for presidential searches.

Among the candidates, “there are minorities, and there are women,” said Austin. “There are alumni.”

The committee’s expectation is to make a decision at the end of February or early March, so that the person picked could start July 1, Austin said.

The three finalists for the position will be made public.

In a separate interview, Connelly confirmed that “The goal remains the same-by April 1, the Board of Trustees will have selected a new president so they could take office by July 1.”

With the search having gone nation-wide, from Massachusetts to Hawaii, speculation abounds as to who the candidates are.

Here in Massachusetts, many assume and expect the current occupant of One Beacon Street, Interim President Jack M. Wilson, the physics professor turned UMass Online CEO and Vice President of Academic Affairs, to be one.

Last December, while visiting the UMass Boston campus, Wilson remained coy when asked if he was a candidate. “We’ll have to see how that plays out,” said Wilson. “I mean, that’s a complicated process. The search committee is working away, I’m having a lot of fun, and I guess we’ll all know by spring.”

But some know who isn’t a candidate: John V. Lombardi, chancellor of UMass Amherst. Two independent sources, one a UMass administration official, and another close to the search, confirmed that Lombardi’s time has yet to come.

Last August, when UMass President William M. Bulger stepped down, the local press offered conflicting reports as to whether Lombardi was a candidate. The Boston Globe, citing a source, said that the UMass presidential search committee “gave serious consideration” to the chancellors of the Amherst, Lowell, and Worcester campuses, but ultimately decided that the “campuses would be better off with their leaders remaining in place.”

Four days later, a Boston Herald article stated that Lombardi was not on list for interim because he was “under consideration as the next permanent president,” and he was “passed up so as not to give him an advantage.”

Lombardi neither returned phone calls to his office nor immediately responded to an e-mail asking for comment.

For more on Interim President Wilson’s UMass Boston visit, log on to for a special report.

The Presidential Search Committee

# Board of Trustee member*alumnus/a

*#Dennis Austin, Co-chairDirector of State Government RelationsRaytheon Company

*#Diane Bissonnette Moes, Co-ChairAttorneyDonoghue Barrett & Singal

John ArmstrongRetired Vice President for Science and TechnologyIBMfor several years headed research efforts for IBM as vice president for science and technology

Anthony Carruthers, PhDDeanUMass Medical Graduate School of Biomedical SciencesUniversity of Massachusetts Medical School

*#Ned DubiloSenior Vice PresidentSalomon Smith Barney Inc.Senior VP and Financial ConsultantSmith Barney Inc.

#Grace FeyChairmanUMass Board of TrusteesFrontier Capital Management Co.

Richard M. FreelandPresidentNortheastern UniversityAt UMass-Boston served as assistant to the chancellor, director of the Office of Educational Planning, founding dean of the College of Professional Studies, and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. In 1992 Freeland became vice chancellor for academic affairs at the CUNY.

Daniel GeorgiannaChancellor Professor of Economics, UMDPresident of the UMass Faculty Federation Local 1895, AFT, AFL-CIO, which represents faculty and professional staff at UMass Dartmouthhas taught at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth since 1978

*Marian HeardPresident, United Way of Massachusetts Bay”Boston’s consummate corporate fund-raiser,” Boston Globe Magazine, December 1998nonpartisan fund-raiser

*Eugene IsenbergChairman, CEO, Nabors Industriesnative of Chelsea, MA1950 alumnus of the university, earned a bachelor’s degree in economicsa director of the American Stock ExchangeUMass Amherst College of Management was named after him

*James “Jess” Kane ’70President, UMass Amherst Alumni Associationfounding partner in dental practices in Natick and Walpole

*#James KaramPresidentFirst Bristol Corporation

#William F. KennedyAttorneyNutter McClennen & FishFormer chief of staff and chief legal counsel to House Speaker Thomas Finneran lobbyist

Winston Langleypolitical science professorassociate provostUMass Boston

*#Robert MahoneyVice Chairman, Citizens Financial Group

*Cathy E. MinehanPresident, Federal Reserve Bank of Bostontrustee of the University of Rochester and Bentley Collegeserves on the board of advisers of the Carroll School of Management at Boston College

W. Brian O’ConnorBiology Professorfaculty representative to the board of trustees UMass Amherst

#Sean W. ReedStudent TrusteeUMass Medical

#Robert K. SheridanPresidentSavings Bank Life Insurance

*John SmithRetired ChairmanGeneral Motors

Steve ToccoChairmanBoard of Higher Education

Robert WagnerFormer ProvostUMass Lowell

*John WelchRetired CEOGeneral Electric

#Karl E. WhiteExecutive Director, MBTA Retirement FundFormer managing principal – Gracian Capital Management