There’s a fascinating story by Frank Phillips on the front page of this morning’s Globe: “UMass top post concerns Patrick: Trustees to defend search as Meehan’s candidacy rises.” At first glance, the story appears to be a setback for Meehan’s quest for the number one job in the University of Massachusetts system, but I think the exact opposite is the case.
The public launch of Meehan’s candidacy occurred back in July with an editorial in the Springfield Republican that said the “recent growth in stature and popularity [of UMass Lowell] has been remarkable” and that it was “perhaps time to bring [Meehan’s] talents to the entire university.” The Globe story today reports that Meehan “emerged from the [first] round of interviews with strong support on the search committee” and that Meehan is now the “leading candidate” with the “inside track to get the job.”
The Phillip’s story reports that two of the leaders of the search committee have scheduled a meeting with Governor Patrick to assure him that the search process has been open and fair. The story suggests that Patrick remains sensitive to the extremely negative public backlash that occurred a year or so ago when he appointed State Senator Marian Walsh to a high paying government job (a job she did not get in the end) that had long been vacant. The governor, according to the story, does not want a repeat of that exercise should Meehan get the UMass Presidency.
This story tells me that Marty will soon be moving out of the Allen House, home of the UMass Lowell Chancellor’s office. Far from being a negative, today’s Globe story is a pre-emptive attack on anyone who might criticize the coming selection. Phillips, of course, was the Lowell Sun’s City Hall reporter long ago, but not so long ago to not have established a relationship with Meehan, a relationship that has only grown stronger as their respective careers have progressed. Now, once Meehan’s elevation to the UMass Presidency is formalized, the Governor will be able to say he scrutinized the process in advance, found it to be fair and open, and is pleased the trustees found the best person for the job.
Assuming all goes according to plan, Meehan’s elevation to the UMass Presidency will be a great thing for UMass Lowell and for the city. No matter where Marty’s desk is located, Lowell will always be part of his life. From all appearances, UMass Lowell has undergone a remarkable transformation during his tenure with the addition of the Tsongas Center and the Inn & Conference Center and a general revitalization of the look and feel of the campus. Hopefully, whoever follows him as Chancellor will be able to continue that momentum.