Ex-Unity College president to lead UMFK

Posted March 15, 2010, at 2 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:32 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Former Unity College President Wilson G. Hess is returning to Maine after a stint as president of a college on an island chain in the Pacific Ocean.

Hess was confirmed Monday afternoon during the University of Maine System’s board of trustees bimonthly meeting as the president of the University of Maine at Fort Kent.

The president emeritus of College of the Marshall Islands, Hess held a variety of teaching and administrative positions at Unity College until serving as president of Unity from 1990 to 2000.

He resigned from Unity to become the executive director of the Audubon Expedition Institute in Belfast.

Hess will begin his new position on July 19 and receive a salary of $137,000. He succeeds Richard Cost, who announced his retirement in August 2009 after seven years as president.

“Helping UMFK achieve its vision — especially as it relates to rigorous liberal arts education, experiential learning, the natural environment, sustainability, and community engagement — is an issue close to the core of my experience as a higher education professional,” Hess said in a statement.

The other finalists were Philip A. Conroy Jr. of Mount Ida College and John G. LaBrie of Northeastern University.

It is not known whether Hess will be in Maine for the board’s next meeting, which is scheduled for May 23-24 at UMFK.

In that meeting, Pattenaude said, he will discuss in depth how far the system has advanced in enacting the recommendations and mandates of the “New Challenges, New Directions” report, which was presented in November.

The campuses and system office are making “steady progress” in going through the plan, Pattenaude told the trustees Monday. “New Challenges, New Directions” is designed to find efficiencies and new revenue sources in the face of an estimated $48 million systemwide shortfall in the next four years.

“The campuses are engaging these issues,” Pattenaude said. “It’s a difficult time with all the challenges they have on the campuses themselves.”

The projects nearing completion or being discussed by “New Challenges, New Directions” committees include developing a common academic calendar; streamlining the transfer of credits among campuses; and addressing student-faculty ratios to improve classroom and online efficiency.

There also have been 18 proposals for three-year degree programs, which Pattenaude said is double what he was expecting, and a few more proposals in the pipeline. The three-year program is seen as a way to attract students to the UMaine System.

Trustees also received an update on the “New Challenges, New Directions” mandated pricing, marketing and financial aid study from Kevin Crockett, president and CEO of the Colorado-based Noel-Levitz consulting firm UMS has retained for the study.

He presented by videoconference some preliminary findings from a recent enrollment assessment, including middling scores for the system’s marketing and recruitment resources, campus visit programming and transfer recruitment. Crockett said the system scored low in long-term recruitment and student retention planning.

The company also will perform a study to determine the best use of financial aid in the system and on the individual campuses.

Also Monday, trustees approved creation of the Forest Bioproducts Research Institute on the University of Maine campus in Orono. The institute will conduct research in the development of forest byproducts.

The trustees also confirmed promotions and tenure appointments for faculty members (see box).

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