University of Maine System chancellor to step down next year to teach

University of Maine System Chancellor Richard Pattenaude speaks at a Board of Trustees meeting Monday, March 16, 2009 to discuss university budget cuts.
Bridget Brown | BDN File
University of Maine System Chancellor Richard Pattenaude speaks at a Board of Trustees meeting Monday, March 16, 2009 to discuss university budget cuts.
Posted May 19, 2011, at 4:04 p.m.
Last modified May 19, 2011, at 9:57 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Richard L. Pattenaude announced Thursday that he plans to step down as chancellor of the University of Maine System in late June 2012, when his contract expires, and return to teaching.

Pattenaude, 65, of Bangor and Biddeford, has served as chancellor since 2007. Before that he was president of the University of Southern Maine for 16 years.

“I have found this position to be an extraordinary and rewarding challenge,” he said in a statement released by the system office in Bangor. “But after 20 years as a leader in the system, both as a president and now as chancellor, it seems like a good time — professionally and personally — to step aside.”

The UMS board of trustees is expected to take action on his decision Sunday at its regularly scheduled meeting in Bangor.

“Chancellor Pattenaude recently informed me of his decision and I respect the decision,” Lyndell J. Wishcamper, chairman of the board of trustees, said in a statement released Thursday. “I want to say that we are grateful for his service. We have accomplished a lot during the time he has served as chancellor and will continue to do so in the upcoming months. He will be with us for the next year and that will provide us with the opportunity to conduct a search for his successor.”

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, a 1969 graduate of the University of Maine, praised Pattenaude for making Maine a destination for students from around the nation and world.

“I extend my profound gratitude to Richard for his decades of service to the University of Maine System and to our state,” Snowe said in a press release issued Thursday. “Both as president of the University of Southern Maine and as chancellor, Richard’s effective stewardship has helped to prepare students with the skills they require to succeed as our future leaders. He has been the torch-bearer of the proud UMS tradition, including at my alma mater, the University of Maine, and he will certainly not be easily replaced.”

Pattenaude said Thursday in an interview at his Bangor office that he said  when he took the job that five years was about the right length of time to serve.

A native of Seattle, Pattenaude earned his bachelor’s degree with honors in economics at California’s San Jose State University and his doctorate in political science at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

While chancellor and president of USM, Pattenaude continued to teach an Introduction to American Government class each fall. Pattenaude will be on sabbatical from July to December 2012 teaching just one class, most likely online, before returning the teaching full time.

During his sabbatical, Pattenaude will receive $220,000 per year, the same salary he has received as chancellor but without some of the perks such as a car. When he becomes a full-time faculty member, he will be paid two-thirds of that salary, he said.

“I enjoy teaching and the feedback I get from students,” Pattenaude said. “I like seeing that twinkle appear in their eyes when they are really engaged.”

Pattenaude noted highlights during his time as chancellor, including:

  1. The comprehensive New Challenges, New Directions plan.
  2. The development of a Strategic Investment Fund to help the university campuses invest in new initiatives.
  3. Balanced budgets at the universities and the system.
  4. Major cost reduction efforts, which have brought the rate of the proposed tuition increase for 2011-2012 — 4.3 percent — to its lowest in 10 years.
  5. New academic programs and a rapid growth in online programs.
  6. Supportive relationships with legislators and Gov. Paul LePage.

Things that remain to be done during the next year include doubling the number of classes offered online, expanding the Allied Health programs, significantly increasing the number of Internet Technology graduates, and adding programs linked to economic growth, the chancellor said.

Pattenaude said that he would be willing to aid the board in the changeover once someone is hired to replace him.

“My goal is that the transition will be as smooth as possible for the next chancellor, so that the baton passes easily,” Pattenaude continued. “I will do all I can to ensure the success of that search.”

As for advice to his successor, Pattenaude said he would encourage the next chancellor to “embrace change and keep things moving along.”

“There’s an enormous amount of wisdom on each [campus],” he said. “Learn to tap that wisdom.”

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