PORTLAND — The University of Maine System must work within tight budgets to improve programs, attract more students and promote the state’s economy, says the system’s next chancellor.

James Page, CEO of his family’s Old Town-based international consulting firm, will replace retiring Chancellor Richard Pattenaude on March 20, the system’s board of trustees announced on Feb. 16.

Page, 59, is the first Maine native and the first alumnus of the university system to take the job overseeing the state’s seven universities. He’s also the first businessman – with experience teaching philosophy at the University of Maine and elsewhere – to become chancellor since the system was formed in 1968.

“It was a very attractive combination of skills that Dr. Page brought to us, including his ability and experience in running a company,” said Michelle Hood, board chairwoman, announcing Page’s appointment Thursday at the University of Southern Maine.

At a time when costs are rising, enrollment is falling and the system’s employees have been working without contracts since July, Page said he embraces the trustees’ goals of increasing students’ success, work force development and cost control.

“I very much agree that the system must become more aligned, more nimble, more innovative and more accountable,” Page said during a morning news conference.

Page was among three finalists for the job. The others were Rebecca Wyke, the system’s vice chancellor for finance and administration, and Meredith Hay, former executive vice president and provost at the University of Arizona.

Pattenaude, 65, has held the post since 2007.

Page declined to give specifics of his plans for the system, which has a $531 million annual budget, about 5,000 employees and about 31,000 students, saying that a successful organization operates best as a “shared enterprise.”

His annual salary will be $277,500.

Born and raised in Caribou, Page earned a bachelor’s degree in history at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, a master’s degree in philosophy at St. Andrews University in Scotland, and a doctorate in linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He received several fellowships and taught at a few colleges before working as an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Kansas from 1992 to 1997, according to his resume.

Page returned to Maine that year, hired by an uncle to become senior vice president and chief operating officer of the James W. Sewall Co.

The 131-year-old consulting firm has offices in six states and does business throughout the Western Hemisphere. It specializes in forestry, engineering, geospatial science and environmental science.

Page became president of the company in 1999 and is now chief executive officer and part-owner. He plans to step down before taking the chancellor’s position.

He’s also a member of several public and private boards, including Camden National Bank, the University of Maine Board of Visitors and the University of Maine Foundation.

Page has been an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Maine since 1998. He lives in Old Town with his wife, Liane Judd , who has a strategic marketing firm, and their teenage daughter.

While touring Maine’s university campuses in recent weeks, Page said, he “met no one who expressed satisfaction with the status quo,” but everyone was passionate about what the system does and could do.

He noted the challenge of improving the system within budget constraints at a time when the high school population in the Northeast is dwindling and opportunities to go to college are growing and diversifying.

“Those opportunities are exploding and we have to make sure we’re on top of them,” Page said.
Faculty members and students have high expectations of Page.

“Of the three people considered for the post, I was most impressed with his candidacy,” said Ed Collom, president of the USM faculty union.

Collom said it’s encouraging that Page has taught in the system, but he noted that system employees have been working without contracts for nearly eight months and haven’t had cost-of-living raises in three years.

“With the rising cost of living, we’re now earning less than we did 10 years ago,” Collom said. “And we’ve had such a reduction in force, we’re all doing more for less.”

Linnell Hilton, a junior at USM who is studying English and history, said the university should improve advising services and campus communication, especially for new students. It also should find ways to streamline and reduce students’ costs for textbooks, transportation and other services.

Daniel Crothers, a senior pre-medical student at USM, said the university should strive to improve programs so it can attract and retain more high-caliber students, especially in the health care professions.

CORRECTION: This story was updated on April 2 to reflect that the University of Maine System’s enrollment is about 31,000 students.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

[email protected]

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