Former UM System chancellor joins Obama transition team

Posted Dec. 11, 2008, at 7:37 p.m.

Former University of Maine System Chancellor Joseph Westphal has accepted a position as a member of President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team for the Department of Defense.

Westphal had been serving as the provost of New School in New York City and stepped down from that position earlier this week.

New School spokeswoman Caroline Oyama confirmed the move. Westphal has not commented and had not taken questions, Oyama added, as of Thursday morning.

Westphal is included on Obama’s transition Web site, www.change.gov, in a list of people who will serve on agency review teams. Westphal is listed under the national security team grouping. The teams, according to the site, will review key government department, agencies and commissions to provide information to the new administration, and make sure key appointees have the proper information for the confirmation process.

The Chronicle of Higher Education said in a posting on its Web site that former Nebraska Sen. and Gov. Bob Kerrey, who is president of New School, sent an e-mail message to the school Monday announcing Westphal’s departure and move to Obama’s transition team. In his message, Kerrey said Westphal agreed he would not be able to handle both “this historic mission and devote the time necessary to the provost’s office.”

Westphal was named provost and senior vice president for research at New School in September.

He previously had been vice president and director of Tishman Environmental and Design Center in New York. The center is part of New School. He continued to work as a professor of environmental studies after his appointment at New School.

Westphal resigned as UMS chancellor in April 2006, four years after he took over the position. In 2007 Westphal was the highest-paid state employee with a salary of $208,000 per year for his position as a University of Maine professor, a job he took after resigning as chancellor.

Before coming to Maine, Westphal served in a number of high-level government positions, including acting secretary of the Army, assistant secretary of the Army in charge of the Army Corps of Engineers, and senior policy adviser on water issues at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

He was also the head of the political science department at Oklahoma State University, executive director of the Congressional Sunbelt Caucus and served two years as special assistant to a Mississippi senator.

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