UMaine presidential candidate has roots in state, business

James Page talks with University of Maine graduate students at the Wells Conference Center in Orono on Tuesday.
James Page talks with University of Maine graduate students at the Wells Conference Center in Orono on Tuesday.
Posted Jan. 25, 2011, at 9:56 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — James Page admits he’s not like the other finalists for the University of Maine’s president post.

The first of four finalists for the job visiting the University of Maine System’s flagship campus in Orono this week, Page, 57, said Tuesday that his resume and background are “a little bit not standard.”

His curriculum vitae shows he began his career in academia after earning a bachelor’s degree in history at the University of Maine at Fort Kent in 1975. He went on to earn a master’s in philosophy from St. Andrews University in Scotland and a doctorate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He did additional course work at Harvard University.

In 1997, he was hired as senior vice president and chief operating officer for the James W. Sewall Co., an Old Town consulting and engineering company. He became the company president two years later and became its chief executive officer in 2001.

Despite his shift to the private sector, he continues to teach part time as an adjunct professor in UMaine’s philosophy department.

During a meeting with leaders of the campus’s graduate student community, Page said that while the corporate profit-loss model “is not appropriate” for a university setting, “there are things in corporate culture that you can import when it comes to management and leadership. In every organization there is room for improve-ment.”

During his campus visit, Page said UMaine can and does play a big role in propelling the state. “Absolutely, both educationally and in terms of economic development,” he said during a brief interview.

If Maine were a state with a larger population, more wealth and a long list of Fortune 500 businesses, “it would be different,” he said. “But we don’t have that here, especially outside of Portland. The number of entities that can drive economic development forward are very, very limited, and the University of Maine is very unique in terms of its development of intellectual firepower.

“If the university doesn’t do it, the options are pretty thin.”

With regard to challenges, Page said UMaine and the state’s other public higher education institutions are facing a declining population of future students and limited resources.

“There’s a tension between the limited resources we have, the population pool and the call on those resources by public higher education,” he said. “I don’t believe the answer to that tension is the wholesale whacking and cutting of anything.

“It’s a dialogue that has to take place and it has to engage the education community, the business community and most importantly the people of the state have to believe their investment, both in terms of their dollars but more importantly in the personages of their sons and daughters, are being well-managed and well-invested,” he said.

Another thing that makes Page different from the other three finalists is that he’s a native Mainer, born and raised in Caribou. After having lived outside the state and abroad, Page says he is back where he belongs.

“This is home. I love this state, and it’s not more complicated than that. When the opportunity to jump back into the public sector came up, I saw it as an opportunity to contribute to its advancement in any way that I can. This is a fabulous opportunity,” he said during interviews with area news outlets.

Page and the three other finalists are seeking to succeed current UMaine President Robert Kennedy, who is stepping down in June. The new president is expected to take over in early July.

The finalists are slated to make separate visits to UMaine through Feb. 9 for a round of open- and closed-door meetings with the university community, including faculty and research directors, student government leaders, graduate students, senior staff and deans, directors and chairs. They also will meet with University of Maine System Chancellor Richard Pattenaude.

The three other finalists are:

• Donald Farish, president at Rowan University in New Jersey.

• Paul Ferguson, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at Southern Illinois University.

• Daniel Julius, vice president for academic affairs at the University of Alaska System of Higher Education.

For information about the search process and the four finalists, visit the Presidential Search Committee’s home page at http://umaine.edu/presidentsearch/.

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