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New university president speaks French, knows karate

Ed Pierce | BDN
Ed Pierce | BDN
James D. Herbert speaks to the crowd gathered at the University of New England's Biddeford campus for his inauguration as the sixth president of UNE on Saturday morning.

Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, is a day that James D. Herbert, Ph.D., is going to remember for a long time.

With his wife, mother and three of his four children looking on, Herbert was officially inaugurated as the sixth president of the University of New England during a ceremony at the school’s Biddeford campus filled with pageantry, humor and a glimpse into where its new leader would like to take the school in the future.

An accomplished psychologist, author, guitarist, gardener and practitioner of karate, Herbert was welcomed to his new role as UNE president by delegates from 21 other colleges and universities, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, members of the UNE faculty and board of trustees, UNE students and past UNE presidents Charles Ford and Danielle Ripich, who he succeeded as UNE’s leader.

Before the ceremony, Herbert said he was filled with pride and humbled to serve as UNE’s president.

“I am incredibly honored and privileged to have this position at UNE,” Herbert said. “I’ve never met students so happy and I just couldn’t be happier.”

He said he and his wife, Lynn Brandsma, love being in Biddeford and were thrilled to have attended the La Kermesse Franco-Americaine Festival in June.

“I speak French, so I was absolutely fascinated in conversing with some of the people there,” Herbert said. “I feel a sense of connection with this community and it’s going to be fun to explore more of it.”

Collins said she believes that Herbert is going to thrive at UNE.

“President Herbert comes to UNE with a distinguished record as a scientist and an academic leader,” she said. “His accomplishments are remarkable.”

She said she wishes Herbert “all the best” in the great challenge that he has accepted.

“As home to Maine’s only medical and dental schools, UNE plays a vital role in our State’s future, helping to keep our best and brightest students here and to attract high-achieving students from elsewhere to come to Maine to study and to stay,” Collins said.

Herbert joins UNE from Drexel University in Philadelphia, where he served as executive vice provost and dean of the school’s Graduate College. Prior to those positions, he served at Drexel as interim provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, head of the Department of Psychology, interim head of the Department of Biology, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, director of the Anxiety Treatment and Research Program, director of the Ph.D. Program in Clinical Psychology, and president of the University Faculty.

Drexel University President John A. Fry praised UNE for choosing Herbert.

“At Drexel, James is known as a remarkable teacher, prolific scholar, and skilled administrator with a collegial approach to meeting any and all challenges,” Fry said. “It was with full confidence in his leadership that James was named dean in 2015. In that post, he has heightened our emphasis on graduate education — at the master’s, doctoral and postdoctoral levels — as an essential strategy to secure Drexel’s place among the nation’s leading research universities.”

Fry said that as executive vice provost, Herbert, who was the first member of his family to graduate from college, was indispensable in working to strengthen and improve academic policies and strategic planning, develop external partnerships, provide insight into major infrastructure projects and enhance fundraising efforts for Drexel.

“Published widely, his work on the application of new technologies to the treatment of anxiety-based disorders has gained national and international media attention,” Fry said.

Herbert’s book “Acceptance and Mindfulness in Cognitive Behavior Therapy,” was published in 2011 with colleague Dr. Evan Forman, and Fry said that he received an endorsement from the Dalai Lama, who called it “a most beneficial and powerful method for ensuring a healthy mind and heart.”

According to Fry, Herbert has two great loves in his life.

“First is his amazing family and then there is his second great love — food,” he said. “There are two things you need to know about James. He will always finish his meal first and you will soon find his eyes on your plate.”

In his inauguration address, Herbert says he envisions an exciting new chapter unfolding for UNE.

“I am deeply honored to play this role in the next chapter of UNE’s unique and remarkable story,” he said. “It’s a story steeped in the history of courageous people who were dauntless in their efforts to build and grow an institution of higher learning. Throughout the years, the university and its predecessor institutions continuously upheld the values of dogged determination and inclusivity while delivering on the promise of education and the personal fulfillment that comes with it. I know that that spirit of UNE is ever-present and will push us forward, together, to a bright, bright future.”

He said the responsibility of serving as UNE’s sixth president is not something he takes lightly.

“This is a day for us to wonder just how much further we can take UNE, to wonder just how much more UNE, and each of us, can become during the next era of our university’s evolution,” Herbert said. “As we sit here, shoulder to shoulder, I believe we can accomplish anything we put our collective minds to.”

 



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