News: Press Releases

February 23, 2015

OpEd: 'Maximum effort' underway in search for new UMass president

By: 

  • The UMass System
Victor Woolridge, chairman of the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees, discusses the search for a new UMass President and the need for continued growth across the UMass System.

In recent years, the University of Massachusetts has been on a roll – as evidenced by surging enrollment, increases in private and public investment, and growing recognition of its status as a research center and economic powerhouse.

The University's reputation has soared. "UMass" is on people's lips and in their minds in a way that it never has been before. The various rankings show our campuses rising higher and higher – and the UMass system as a whole has been rated as the best public university in New England and as one of the 100 best universities in the world.

So it is against this backdrop of success that the University of Massachusetts has just launched a search for a new president, seeking a successor to Robert L. Caret, who has been recruited away to become the chancellor of the 12-campus, $5 billion public university system in Maryland.

Without question, Bob Caret has been a big part of the UMass success story – and replacing him won't be easy. But I would much rather be trying to fill big shoes than small ones.

Those of us who serve on the University's all-volunteer Board of Trustees are aware that there is a burden on us to bring in a president who can maintain this upward trajectory and take UMass higher. Because the stakes are so high, we are determined to have a top-flight search.

We have taken a critical first step in the process by creating a 21-member Search Committee that includes faculty members from all five campuses, students, business and community leaders, and members of the Board of Trustees.

Our Search Committee will be led by Robert J. Manning, an alumnus who combined a keen intellect with an incomparable work ethic to become chairman of MFS Investment Management, a Boston-based company that manages $431 billion in investments and employs 1,700 people around the world.

Faculty members on the committee include Katherine Luzuriaga, MD, who Time magazine in 2013 described as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, based on her work in the battle against HIV, as well as two physicists, a scholar of African-American culture and literature, and an esteemed cancer researcher.

We are mounting a maximum effort because the stakes are so high, as the five-campus UMass system educates nearly 73,000 students and awards 16,000 degrees each year. The University system, as a $3 billion-a-year enterprise and a $600 million-a-year research giant, is critical to the Commonwealth's economic well-being in diverse ways.

Our new governor, Charlie Baker, has a strong focus on education and economic development and will be looking to UMass to play a leading role in providing the highly skilled workforce and the steady stream of new products and new ideas we need to keep our innovation economy humming.

I encourage citizens who have an interest in the future of the University of Massachusetts – a group that really should consist of the Commonwealth's entire citizenry – to weigh in on this process as it unfolds. We invite interested parties to attend one of the Search Committee's public meetings or to follow its progress and post ideas through our special website, reachable at https://www.massachusetts.edu. The process will be inclusive, thorough and transparent.

As a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, I know firsthand the enormous impact this University has on people's lives, and I recognize that in our presidential search, as in all other things, we need to act with great purpose.

To quote a personal hero, Dr. Martin Luther King: "This is a time for vigorous and positive action." And action of this nature is what we intend.

Victor Woolridge, of Springfield, is chairman of the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees.

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