UMass may pick president Jan. 13

Committee set to interview final candidates

By Tracy Jan
Globe Staff / January 4, 2011

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The University of Massachusetts expects to name at least three finalists for its next president — and perhaps even choose the university’s new leader — next week.

On the morning of Jan. 13, the board’s search committee plans to interview fewer than a half-dozen candidates who made it to the second round, UMass officials told the Globe yesterday.

James Karam, a UMass trustee and chairman of the search committee, sent an e-mail to trustees yesterday asking them to be on standby for a special meeting that afternoon.

“We’re optimistic that we have a great group that we’re going to interview next week, and we would hope that the search committee can conclude its work that day,’’ Karam said in a phone interview.

If the search committee names finalists, as expected, those candidates will be interviewed by the 22-member board in a public session that afternoon. Karam said the same-day scheduling helps with the logistics of flying candidates in from around the country.

The next president will oversee a five-campus university system that is endeavoring to boost its prestige while coping with declining state funding.

The search to replace UMass president Jack Wilson, who will step down June 30 after an eight-year tenure, began in March and hit a snag last month after Martin Meehan, chancellor of UMass Lowell and an early favorite of some search committee members, bowed out.

Candidates whose names have surfaced publicly who UMass officials say are still under consideration are: Phillip Clay, who is stepping down as chancellor at MIT; Robert Caret, president of Towson University, in Maryland, and former president of San Jose State University; and Meredith Hay, executive vice president and provost at the University of Arizona. Hay has previously told the Globe she has withdrawn as a candidate.

The search process began with 400 candidates who were reviewed by a search firm. Fifty were then seriously considered by the search committee, and 14 were called in for first-round interviews.

Asked whether Governor Deval Patrick, whose earlier concern about the search process apparently provoked Meehan’s withdrawal as a candidate, has weighed in on any favorites, Karam said, “The governor has appointed a number of people he’s entrusted to the board. He does have his imprint on this process with his board members, including me.’’

Tracy Jan can be reached at