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Former chairman, longtime trustee steps down from UMass board

AMHERST -- James J. Karam, two-time chairman of the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees, announced today that he is stepping down Dec. 31, ending nearly 10 years of service on the UMass Board of Trustees.

Karam, whose term is set to expire in February, served two stints as board chairman, with his most recent term as chair ending last summer when Governor Deval Patrick appointed vice chairman Henry M. Thomas, III to succeed him.

A successful Fall River businessman and graduate of UMass Dartmouth, Karam notified the governor by letter of his decision and told fellow board members today at a Board of Trustees meeting on the Amherst campus. Karam said he wanted to give Governor Patrick the opportunity to appoint a successor early in the new year.

``I have been given a number of gifts in my life: a wonderful family, good health, good fortune in my business pursuits - but certainly one of the greatest gifts I have received has been the opportunity to serve on this board,'' Karam said. ``Being a University of Massachusetts trustee has given me the opportunity to give back to the University that has given so much to me, and to my family.'' He added, ``I will continue to be there with you as a proud graduate, as a businessman whose interests are so tied to the state's fortunes, and as a concerned citizen.''

Karam, whose brother Robert Karam is also a graduate of UMass Dartmouth and former board chairman, was first appointed to the 22-member UMass Board of Trustees by Governor Jane Swift in January 2002. He was reappointed in September 2007 by Governor Patrick. He served as chairman of the board from August 2004 to August 2006 and from September 2011 to June 30, 2012.

During his tenure on the board, Karam has overseen the successful search for and the appointment of a new UMass president, three new campus chancellors, and a new dean of the UMass School of Law. He also played a critical role in facilitating the development and opening of the UMass School of Law in Dartmouth, the Commonwealth's only public law school; and UMass Dartmouth's Advanced Technology Manufacturing Center and the Massachusetts Accelerator for BioManufacturing, both in Fall River.

Also during his tenure, UMass enrollment surged from 58,000 to 71,000.  The University's endowment and research expenditures both grew to nearly $600 million. UMass has become a national leader in licensing income derived from faculty inventions, and a leading recipient of biotechnology patents in Massachusetts. A faculty member won the Nobel Prize, and students have won prestigious awards, including the Marshall, Fulbright, and Truman scholarships.

Karam's service to the University and the board was widely praised.

"Jim has my deepest thanks for his ten years of invaluable contributions to UMass," said Governor Patrick. "He has been a tremendous partner to the University and to me, and I hope to continue working with Jim on other civic projects in the future."

``Jim has been an indispensable leader and has led the Board of Trustees with distinction,'' UMass President Robert L. Caret said. ``He has inspired us and he has challenged us, and the University of Massachusetts is in a much better place because of his leadership and service to his alma mater. I know, personally, I owe him my sincere gratitude for his role in bringing me to this University as president, and I will miss him.''

``Jim was an extraordinary chairman who had an acute understanding of both policy and operations," said Education Secretary Paul Reville. "His vision and energy have been essential to the University's progress and his presence on the board will be missed."

Board Chairman Thomas said: ``Your contributions and your commitment have been unparalleled. You are a public servant extraordinaire. We owe you a debt of gratitude that goes beyond measure."

``Jim Karam represents the best of what a trustee should be - a combination of business sense, Fall River street sense, and that courage John F. Kennedy spoke of in his City on a Hill speech,'' said UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Divina Grossman. ``In my six months as chancellor, Jim has been both a mentor and friend. While he may be departing from the board, I know he will always be a committed champion of UMass Dartmouth.''

In his remarks to the Board of Trustees, Karam urged his colleagues and others to continue to advocate for UMass.

"This University transformed my life, as it has transformed the lives of countless other people across the Commonwealth," he said. "I ask you to please continue the fight, because this is a University worth fighting for."

Contact: Robert P. Connolly, 617-287-7073, Ann Scales, 617-287-4084


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