ORONO, Maine — University of Maine President Robert Kennedy is now one of just two candidates for the position of president Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan.
Steve Ballard, chancellor at East Carolina University and a former UMaine faculty member, has withdrawn his name from consideration, according to an Associated Press report.
Kip Peterson, the director of government relations for the Kansas Board of Regents, which is conducting the search, declined to comment on Ballard’s withdrawal.
“I’m a little surprised,” said Kennedy, who did not know Ballard. “Many people have found it interesting that two out of three candidates for the job had University of Maine connections. Certainly I felt honored to be a finalist, and I recognized the quality of candidates Kansas State University had attracted to this important po-sition.”
KSU announced last week that Kennedy was a finalist for its president position.
Kennedy said Kansas State’s reputation as a top land grant university, a designation UMaine also holds, led him to continue pursuing the opening after he was approached by a headhunting service.
“I’ve had the pleasure of serving at and being familiar with many of the best land grant universities in the country and that’s the way I regard Kansas State University,” Kennedy said Friday afternoon after participating in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in honor of the Cutler Health Center’s partnership with Norumbega Medical Spe-cialists and Eastern Maine Medical Center.
“I think it’s recognition perhaps of what the University of Maine has accomplished, and the collective work of our faculty, staff and administration here, that Kansas State University would consider someone from the University of Maine as one of the finalists for their position,” Kennedy added.
KSU is seeking a replacement for Jon Wefald, who will retire July 1. The other candidate for the job is Kirk Schulz, vice president for economic development at Mississippi State.
Kennedy said he is expecting to hear from Kansas State in mid- to late February.
Kennedy and his wife, Mary, visited Kansas State earlier this week, meeting with university and local Manhattan groups from Sunday evening to Tuesday afternoon. There were meetings with the KSU administration, faculty, student groups, staff groups, athletic department representatives and the local chamber of commerce.
“It was exhaustive,” Kennedy said “I think every conceivable representative of a university, Mary and I had the opportunity to meet with.”
Kennedy, who is from Minnesota, said he and his wife were given a warm welcome in Kansas.
“The people were wonderful,” he said. “To a person, everyone was very, very hospitable. I found it very similar to Maine, just very good people, and I think [Mary Kennedy] felt the same way.”
East Carolina Chancellor Ballard said in a statement that the interview process reminded him what a “great place” East Carolina University is and how much he enjoys working there, the AP reported.
According to the East Carolina University Web site, Ballard became the founding director of UMaine’s Margaret Chase Smith Center for Public Policy in 1989 and remained there until 1998. He was director of the University of Maine System-State Government Partnership Program from 1990 to 1992 and chair of the depart-ment of public administration from 1991 to 1994.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.