FORT KENT, Maine — A few years past the average retirement age and with dreams of spending future summers fishing on the Miramichi River, University of Maine at Fort Kent President Dr. Richard Cost announced Friday afternoon that he will retire at the end of the 2009-10 academic year.
The declaration was made just before 4 p.m. at a Campus Development Day assembly of students, faculty and staff.
Cost’s retirement in June 2010 will wind up eight years of leadership as the ninth president in UMFK’s 131-year history. He came to Fort Kent in August 2002. Before that, he had more than 30 years of experience in higher education administration and was vice president for institutional advancement at Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts.
Despite his love for the campus and the people of the St. John Valley, the 68-year-old said he wants to retire to spend more time with friends and family, including his wife, Ellen, three children and six grandchildren who range in age from 2 to 15. He also wants to travel, play golf, and ideally spend each August on Eagle Lake and fishing on the Miramichi River.
It was a day of mixed emotions, Cost said late Friday, on a day when he was talking about the future of the university while opening up to the community about his own.
“It is a funny thing,” he said. “All of your life, you think about retirement and you can’t wait for the day when you can retire. And now I have the best job I have ever had, surrounded by great people and a great commu-nity — and it is hard. It is a bit like, ‘I don’t want to go.’”
Cost spent the day meeting with others and discussing plans to grow the university in the future.
University of Maine System Chancellor Richard L. Pattenaude described Cost as a “strong and effective advocate for higher education, UMFK, and for the interests of the St. John Valley.”
The chancellor praised Cost for his leadership and support of educational opportunities and economic development.
The university has undergone a significant transformation with Cost at the helm. When he came to UMFK, he challenged the campus to grow from its enrollment of 850 students to 1,000. The campus exceeded that figure by more than 300 students by the fall of 2006. Under his reign, UMFK has been ranked as a Best Northeastern College by The Princeton Review in consecutive years from 2006 to 2010. The campus also was ranked as a Best Bacca-laureate College in the North by U.S. News & World Report in 2009.
He also helped establish the Center for Rural Sustainable Development at UMFK and assisted in the revival of the UMFK Foundation and the establishment of a strong annual fund, drawing an alumni participation rate of 6.4 percent.
Cost also helped spearhead the successful reaccreditation of UMFK by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges in 2004 and professional accreditation of the business, computer applications, e-commerce and rural public safety administration programs by the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education.
In 2007, he chaired an accreditation team visit at the New Hampshire Institute of Art for the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. This October, he will chair a similar visit to Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho for the Northwest Commission on Higher Education.
Last year, Cost served on a national task force for The American Association of State Colleges and Universities to create a voluntary system of accountability for public colleges and universities.
He has served as president of the Maine Higher Education Council, serves on the national council of Presidents of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and as secretary of the America’s First Mile commit-tee supporting the town of Fort Kent. He also is a trustee of Northern Maine Medical Center and was named by state Commissioner of Education Susan Gendron to a task force on secondary education policy that met throughout the year in 2006.
Just because his career at UMFK is winding down, Cost is not taking his foot off the gas pedal. He said Friday that there is a great deal of work to be done and many achievements to look forward to over the course of the academic year, including the successful completion of the 2009-14 Strategic Plan, the anticipated accreditation of UMFK’s forestry program by the Society of American Foresters and a return to the NAIA national tournament by the men’s and women’s soccer teams. He also will be helping to prepare for UMFK’s role in the St. John Valley’s hosting of the 2014 Acadian World Congress.
“There is lots to do,” he said Friday. “And when I retire, I imagine that I will continue to be engaged in higher education in some fashion on a part-time basis.”
Cost said that after leaving Fort Kent he and his wife plan to return to their house in Middleboro, Mass., a small town and former farming community that Cost said is similar to Fort Kent. At the home, surrounded by his wife’s gardens, Cost plans to relax in the yard under his favorite tree.
“It will be blossoming by that time,” he said Friday. “I will love it.”
Pattenaude said he will be recommending to the UMS board of trustees that a national search to identify Cost’s successor be started.