University of Maine president Robert Kennedy and his wife, UMaine biochemistry professor Mary Rumpho Kennedy, were well aware the state of Kansas is pretty far from the ocean, which is where Rumpho Kennedy does most of her work.
Yet there they were in Manhattan, Kan., pondering a move to the middle of the country, as Robert Kennedy was one of two finalists for the position of president at Kansas State University.
“One [UMaine supporter] wrote and said, you know, it’s 1,000 miles away from salt water, which is the [environment of the] marine organisms she works with,” Robert Kennedy said with a laugh. “We’ve appreciated the natural wonders and the people of the state of Maine.”
Kennedy said for that reason and more he is pleased to be back in Orono about 24 hours after he said he made a decision to return to the University of Maine. The decision, he said, was made at the same time representatives of the Kansas Board of Regents, which governs six state universities, told him they were going in another direction in the president search.
“In the end they felt that the other candidate was a good fit for them, and at the same time Mary and I concluded we had the desire to stay in Maine, to see through a job we have started,” Kennedy said Wednesday afternoon. “It was an honor to be considered a finalist for [the president position].”
Kennedy, who has been UMaine’s president since 2005 and has held a variety of high-level jobs on the Orono campus since 2000, said he is settled at UMaine for now.
“Given the enormous outpouring of support we have had and the view that people appreciate my being at the university, both Mary and I feel both very comfortable in continuing here for many years,” he said. “I would want people to know for nine years or more I have been committed totally and wholly to the University of Maine.”
Kennedy said he appreciated the show of support at several levels, especially the recent UMaine student senate resolution asking Kennedy to stay.
The remaining candidate, Kirk Schulz, who is the vice president for research and economic development at Mississippi State, was officially named Kansas State president Wednesday afternoon.
Kennedy’s background is mostly in the academic arena, while Schultz, who has held departmental positions in engineering, was most recently serving in more of a financial role for Mississippi State. Kennedy wasn’t sure whether the Board of Regents was looking for a president with that kind of economic experience.
“I didn’t [get that sense], which is not to say that didn’t factor into some of their evaluations,” he said.
Next up for Kennedy are meetings Thursday with University of Maine System chancellor Richard Pattenaude. Kennedy will be in meetings about the current state legislative session and national economic stimulus package.
“We want to help the great state of Maine reposition itself in this challenging economy,” he said.