Dannel P. Malloy says he was was ready for a “totally different job” after more than two decades as an elected chief executive, the last eight as governor of Connecticut. He found it Thursday morning when he was named chancellor of the public university system in Maine, overseeing far-flung campuses in New England’s largest state.
Malloy, 63, a Democrat who reorganized much of higher education in Connecticut by combining community colleges and the state’s four regional universities into a unified system, will take office on July 1, replacing Chancellor James Page, who plans to retire on June 30. Malloy will earn $350,000 and oversee 30,000 students on seven campuses.
He left office on Jan. 9, ceding the job and the limelight to Gov. Ned Lamont. He has been teaching a course about public service at his alma mater, Boston College Law School.
“This is what I wanted to do,” said Malloy, a former prosecutor and Stamford mayor. “It’s one of the reasons I took the position at BC, so I would have the time to pursue this. I’m done with electoral politics, but I’m a community service provider, in this case educative services, which is in so many ways life changing.”
“I took the time and found the right place for me do that in,” he said.
Malloy spoke by telephone in between meetings Thursday, including introductions to key Maine legislators.
“This is what I wanted to do. I’m done with electoral politics, but I’m a community service provider, in this case educative services, which is in so many ways life changing.”
Former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy
James Erwin, chair of the University of Maine System board of trustees said, “Malloy is an executive leader and public servant committed to taking on complex change initiatives and getting the job done.”
Malloy left office with one of the lowest approval rating of a U.S. governor, evidently not a discouraging factor.
“As governor he delivered reforms and structural changes to state government that were not always popular, and certainly not expedient, but that advanced the long term interest of his state and its citizens,” Erwin said.
Soon after Malloy took office in Connecticut in 2011, he took the controversial step of merging the state’s 12 community colleges with the four regional state universities, creating the Connecticut State Colleges and University system and establishing a Board of Regents for Higher Education to oversee it.
Malloy said he did it to create efficiencies, save money and invest that money back into the classroom experience for students.
Almost eight years later, that structural change is still the subject of dispute in Connecticut with some professors and community college advocates maintaining it hasn’t helped.
But Malloy was also known for the state’s investment in UConn to spur development of the state’s bioscience industry and to increase enrollment in engineering and science, technology, engineering and math fields. He also brought Jackson Laboratory, a Maine-based genomics biomedical research center, to the UConn Health campus in Farmington in 2012 with the state’s offer of a $291 million package.
Over the years, Malloy repeatedly emphasized the importance of higher education as an economic driver in the state.
UConn President Susan Herbst said that Malloy “understood that to build a great university, you have to invest in it. It’s never going to be a force for economic development, it’s not going to be a beacon of culture and innovation, it’s not going to be a community that really educates citizens unless you invest.”
“Governor Malloy is the most sophisticated governor with regard to higher education that I have ever met without question,” Herbst continued. “He understood UConn with all our different parts and campuses. He had not only been watching us for years, but thinking about us, thinking about the role of the state, the role of a research university in the state of Connecticut.”
Malloy will take the helm of a university whose enrollment has been flagging, in a state that is losing young people. The university has a budget shortfall of $3 million, which a spokesman said will be covered by reserves.
For the past three years, UMaine has lured Connecticut students with billboards on I-84 offering tuition at UConn’s in-state rates. A spokesman for the university said the number of Connecticut students at the university has gone up from 546 five years ago to 674 in the fall of 2018.
“It’s a good system and at a bargain price,” Malloy said of UMaine.
Malloy said he just bought a Volkswagon Tiguan off lease, as he’ll be putting on the miles in Maine. His main office will be at Orono, with satellites in Augusta and Portland and four other campuses.
He also will be retaining his home in Essex because of its proximity to children and grandchildren.
“People forget that Maine is the size of the rest of New England,” he said.
At University of Maine-Presque Isle, Malloy will find a student from Stamford who exemplifies how education can be life changing.
Shyquinn Dix was playing point guard for a junior college in Nebraska when he was convicted of forging checks in Connecticut. Malloy met him at a prison in Cheshire, where young offenders serve in an experimental unit that has won national plaudits and recently was featured on 60 Minutes.
James Vassar, a Cheshire correction officer who played guard in college, told the Presque Isle coach about the Cheshire Correctional Institution point guard who still had game. To the amazement of Dix, the coach came to visit and talk about basketball and opportunity. He offered Dix a place on the team and a scholarship.
“That in itself tells you the power of education,” Malloy said.
Like Connecticut, Maine and its education system is trying to cope with demographics. “Connecticut is an old state. Maine is the oldest.”
“It’s a totally different job, and I’m totally ready for a different job,” Malloy said.