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May 01, 2015

Marty Meehan answers questions before being named the new president of the University of Massachusetts. (Stephen Savoia/AP)

The University of Massachusetts has selected its next president: former congressman Marty Meehan. Meehan will become the first UMass graduate to lead the system, and he’ll face a unique set of challenges.

The Board voted unanimously for Meehan over Harvard business professor John Quelch. Meehan set himself apart by confidently laying out his vision for the university, and promising to raise more money than any of his predecessors.

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"I think it's a matter of passion for the roll that the University of Massachusetts plays in Massachusetts, in the country, and also internationally," Meehan said shortly after getting the nod. "This is a great, world-class university and I feel honored to lead it."

As chancellor at UMass Lowell, Meehan, a self-described micromanager, increased that school’s stature by boosting enrollment, partnering with community colleges and doubling its endowment.

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“Under Marty’s leadership, UMass Lowell has experienced a meteoric rise,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “His work has helped establish UMass Lowell as a global research institution and as a university which offers education that is relevant to the needs of Massachusetts.”

As public funding for higher education drops, Meehan predicts his biggest challenge as president will be controlling costs while maintaining quality across the five-campus system.

“We’re going to need to be as strategic and entrepreneurial as we can in order to raise this university to even a higher level,” Meehan said.

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Meehan was also in the running for the presidency of Suffolk University, but says he won’t entertain other offers should they be presented to him - he’s committed to serve UMass for at least ten years.

“If I were interested in doing anything else, I would not be taking on this challenge” he said Friday morning in a meeting with the Board of Trustees.

Trustee Henry Thomas III, president of the Urban League of Springfield, was most impressed with Meehan’s effort to increase diversity at UMass Lowell. “He understands the importance of having a diverse community and celebrating, embracing it, as well as promoting it,” Thomas said.

Meehan will take over July 1 at a crucial time for UMass. The system faces $2.4 billion dollars in deferred maintenance costs, and is striving to position itself as one of the country’s elite public universities.

Meehan will succeed Robert Caret, who is stepping down in June to become chancellor of the University of Maryland system.

Marty Meehan, higher ed, Massachusetts, umass lowell, increasing access and success, Umass

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