USM names former Towson president Caret as new chancellor

The Baltimore Sun
Former Towson University president named new chancellor of University System of Maryland.

The University System of Maryland has named Robert Caret, president of the University of Massachusetts System and a former president of Towson University, as its next chancellor, officials confirmed Wednesday.

Caret will succeed William E. Kirwan, who announced in May that he would step down after 12 years at the helm. Caret said he had orally accepted the job offer and has not yet formally resigned. Caret said he would focus on two primary goals: ensuring students can get a high-quality education at an affordable price, and continuing "to build a research-based economic engine."

"It's an exciting opportunity," Caret said in an interview. "It brings me back to a system I was part of for 29 years, so I have a lot of my life invested in the University System of Maryland. I think I have a skill set that coming back as chancellor will allow me to help them continue to evolve and develop and mature in a lot of ways. They're doing a great job, and I want to make sure that continues to happen."

Caret said he had been in "an informal dialogue" with the Board of Regents for several months. He said they "enticed him" to talk to them, and a headhunter he knew "was instrumental" in convincing him to consider the job.

"I wasn't looking. I had no desire to move," he said. "As I thought about and talked to people and talked to my family, it wound up being the right decision."

The university system chancellor typically works with the board, whose members are appointed by the governor, to set goals for 12 of the state's public universities, including Towson University, the University of Maryland, College Park, and Coppin State University. The chancellor is a key go-between for the regents and presidents of the universities, and is expected to be the public face of the university system and to lobby for funding in Annapolis.

In a statement, Gov.-elect Larry Hogan said, "Bob is a national leader in innovation in education, with an incredible track record of success, and is the perfect choice for this critical role. As a former president of Towson University, he has a deep knowledge of our state, and I want to welcome him back home to Maryland and let him know how much I look forward to working with him as a partner to advance public higher education in Maryland."

Caret will take over the job at a time when the state is facing a $1.2 billion budget shortfall over the next 18 months. The state universities recently began a hiring freeze and are tamping down expenses in anticipation of potential cuts.

Caret took the helm of the University of Massachusetts System, which comprises 70,000 students at five campuses, in July 2011. He took the job at the Amherst campus after serving as president of Towson for eight years. He also had served as faculty member, executive vice president and dean at Towson.

Kirwan said that Caret is a friend he's known for three decades and that the two "think a lot alike."

"I couldn't be more pleased to have him as my successor," Kirwan said. "He'll come back here to Maryland, he'll hit the ground running. He knows everyone, he knows the leaders in Annapolis very well. People have confidence in him."

James L. Shea, chairman of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, said in a statement he thought Caret would offer "visionary and innovative leadership."

"He is adept at building partnerships that benefit institutions and the surrounding communities," said Shea.

Key details, like Caret's salary, have not been announced. Kirwin was to earn $499,800 this year.

System officials said Caret's appointment was "effective July 1," but he said he hadn't yet heard about a formal start date.

System officials planned to formally introduce Caret at a news conference on Friday, but the news leaked early and surprised many stakeholders.

Virletta Bryant, chair of the Council of University System Faculty and a Coppin State University professor, said faculty members don't know enough about Caret to have firm opinions on his selection and criticized the secretiveness of the search process. Under Maryland law, finalists for the job are kept secret and the vote taken in private, unlike in some other states.

"It was just the quietest chancellor search period I have ever observed," she said. "I think that there could have been more faculty involvement."

jburris@baltsun.com

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