AUGUSTA — Rebecca Wyke was named the new president of the University of Maine at Augusta on Friday, bringing stability to the university after a string of leadership changes that began in 2014.

Wyke, of Augusta, served as interim president of the university for six months in 2015. She said she wouldn’t have agreed to come back if she didn’t feel it was a good match for the school.

“Having the campus feel that they wanted some stability was a very important component,” Wyke said by phone Friday morning. “The campus needed to have the opportunity to have the president they wanted, and it felt good that they wanted me to come back.”

Wyke, the University of Maine System’s vice chancellor for finance and administration, will begin her term July 1. Her three-year contract will run through June 30, 2020, and it will pay her $194,000 annually. James Conneely, who resigned unexpectedly in April less than 18 months after coming to UMA, will leave office June 30.

Chancellor James Page, in a news release, said Wkye has been a key player in public higher education in Maine.

“Becky has the skills, experience, and commitment needed to ensure that UMA helps to carry on our statewide efforts to expand access and improve attainment for anyone who aspires to a college degree,” Page said. “The campus and community provided significant and timely input into our leadership discussions over the last several weeks, a testament to the shared commitment to the institution and its vitally important mission.”


UMA’s top leadership position has gone through several changes since September 2014, when Allyson Handley left the university after six years at the helm to take a job in California. Former Maine House Speaker Glenn Cummings, who was also former president and executive director of Good Will-Hinckley and the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, took over as interim president at UMA after that; and in June 2015 he was appointed president of the University of Southern Maine. Wyke took over as interim president after Cummings left.

One of her first orders of business, even before officially starting July 1, will be reconnecting with the faculty, staff, leadership and community at UMA. She sent a message to the campus shortly after the announcement letting the university community know that she plans to begin campus visits immediately and wants to sit down with the leadership team as soon as possible.

“I want to get their take on where the campus is now and what their concerns are for the future,” Wyke said. “One of the most important things we can do is go through a process of reconnecting with our mission and strategic plan currently in place.

“(We need to) prioritize those things the campus feels are most important to move forward,” she said.

She said one can’t lead an organization without connecting with the people in it and understanding what they think is important.

“That’s really the first step,” she said. “UMA’s mission of serving a mostly first-generation population working to better their families really speaks to my heart.”


When Conneely’s resignation was announced April 12, former UMA student government president Patrick Caskin said the school should hire Wyke, a former interim president at UMA, to fill the position. He said having some stability on campus with someone who is familiar with the UMA mission and its unique student population would be ideal.

Wyke’s appointment was met with praise from many UMA leaders, including Jan Mokros, the leader of the UMA Board of Visitors, associate education professor Cynthia Dean and psychology and human services professor Frank Ellis.

In the news release, Mokros said effective educational programming has to meet students where they are in life and location. She said Wyke knows this and knows UMA.

“She has been a strong advocate for the resources and services our campus and community-based students need to succeed,” Mokros said.

Dean said Wyke brings proven and stable leadership and a commitment to public service and student services that aligns very well to the statewide mission of access, scholarship and service.

“The faculty at UMA love to teach, inspire and help our students achieve,” Dean said. “We are pleased to welcome a new leader to our community who shares these values.”


Ellis said Wyke was an “excellent choice” because she understands UMA, its students, faculty and administration and will work diligently to help fulfill the school’s potential.

Kennebec Savings Bank President and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Silsby, a member of the UMA Board of Visitors and a member of the 2015 presidential search committee, which brought Conneely to the school last year, said hiring an internal candidate such as Wyke was the best choice and he couldn’t think of a better person to lead the school.

“When Chancellor Page visited the campus recently there was resounding support from the students, faculty, staff and the Board of Visitors for Rebecca’s appointment,” Silsby said via email. “She knows the university system, the legislative funding process (and) the unique role that UMA plays in our community.”

There was no nationwide search like the one that found Conneely. Under terms of the appointment, Wyke will undergo a review during her second year to determine her future status. Based on input from faculty, staff, students and the Board of Visitors, a decision will be made whether and when a presidential search will be conducted. In some instances, University of Maine System spokesman Dan Demeritt said, the board of trustees can waive a search in response to strong campus and community support for the president.

Wyke, who’s lived in Augusta about 20 years, joined the University of Maine System as vice chancellor for finance and administration in 2008 following five years as the state’s commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services under Gov. John Baldacci. Before that, she was the chief deputy secretary of state from 1995 to 2002 under Gov. Angus King.

She has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master of arts in public administration from the University of Maine, in Orono. Wyke received her doctorate of education in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania.


Wyke, 55, is paid $209,100 per year in her current position. When Conneely began the job in January 2016, he signed a two-and-half-year contract that ran through June 30, 2018, and paid him $192,000 annually. He will not be paid for the remaining year of his contract, according to Demeritt.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: