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Jean Maccormack Moves To The Next Phase Of A Great Career

Rep. Barney Frank

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Mr. Speaker, many of us in Southeastern Massachusetts--and indeed in Massachusetts as a whole--had very mixed emotions on learning of the decision by University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Chancellor Jean MacCormack to retire. She will be greatly missed, and we cannot help but express our deep regret that she will be moving on from the position from which she has shown such extraordinary leadership educationally, economically and culturally. But given how hard Jean MacCormack has worked, how dedicated she has been to her students, to the faculty, and to the region of which that institution is such an important part, no one can begrudge her the decision to take a pause and move to different work.

I say different work, Mr. Speaker, because no one who knows the energy, passion for helping others and improving the world around her, and great gift for friendship that Jean MacCormack possesses doubts that she will soon be doing something else of great value. But this is an appropriate time to note the wide range of very important contributions she has made to our region.

As the Member of the House proud to represent what has been for many years the leading fishing community in the United States, New Bedford, and its surrounding towns, I have derived enormous strength from the work that has been done at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth to support the fishing industry with first-rate research, and Jean MacCormack has been an essential factor in that effort.

Under her leadership, UMass Dartmouth has become a very important source of research and leadership for economic development in dealing with our ocean resources in general and UMass Dartmouth has played a very essential role in promoting the economic development of our region both with regard to some specific industries, including textiles and cranberries, in addition to fishing, and in general.

Many people talk about the important synergies that come from making sure that first-rate academic work is coordinated with economic development. Jean MacCormack has done as much as anyone I know to make that a reality. And I was very proud to be one of those who worked under her leadership to create the first public law school in the history of Massachusetts, with the merger of Southern New England Law School into the University of Massachusetts system, headquartered at the Dartmouth branch.

Mr. Speaker, Jean MacCormack was to me not just a great educational leader, but a great friend. No one could be in her presence without being made to feel valuable and to be entertained and instructed at the same time. I join with the population of Southeastern Massachusetts in thanking her for a job very well done and in wishing her well as we watch her move on to her next work.

And Mr. Speaker, as an indication of the impact Jean MacCormack has had, I ask that the excellent article from the New Bedford Standard Times about her career be printed here.

Dartmouth.--Expressing deep concern for the future of public higher education in America, Jean F. MacCormack Tuesday announced she will retire at the end of this academic year as chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. MacCormack, 64, notified the campus at the annual faculty/ staff convocation breakfast and in a campus-wide email. Noting the shrinking financial support for state-run colleges and universities, MacCormack, both in her address and in an interview, lamented the dwindling public support and today's increasing hostility toward the public sector. ``They're angry at the government and it spills over,'' she said. But she did not say that was the reason for her retirement; rather, she cited the wish to pursue other interests after three decades of working ``24/7'' in college administration. And despite the fact she has come under criticism politically, she said politics had no bearing on her decision. Citing the 1862 Morrill Act signed by President Lincoln establishing land-grant colleges, MacCormack said: ``We simply cannot allow the debate to be dominated by negative voices and allow the spirit and intent of the Morrill Act to be hijacked. We cannot accept the new dogmas of the stormy present to prevail. Too much is at stake for our nation and our democracy.'' She said in her address that she sees no obvious strategy. ``I would love to tell you that I see a clear pathway for improvement on the national issues, but instead I think those possibilities are only slowly emerging from the name-calling and the rancor. What I am quite certain about is that we must find our voice in this national debate and become strong advocates for not abandoning our nation's longstanding commitment to the clear mission of public higher education.'' New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang, who has conducted hardball negotiations with MacCormack and the university over land at Fort Taber to expand SMAST, was effusive in his praise for the chancellor. ``She's left a very long-lasting, positive legacy for the university,'' Lang said. ``She's left a tremendous amount of momentum in key areas that the next chancellor will need to build on. ``I regard her as a friend. We don't agree on every issue and we never, never will. But I enjoyed working with her. It's in the interest of everyone in this region that our university be extremely successful, innovative and a true partner,'' Lang said. During her tenure, which began in 1999 when she arrived from UMass Boston, the campus expanded greatly, including a visual and performing arts campus in downtown New Bedford, the state's first public law school in Dartmouth, the Charlton College of Business, vastly increased on-campus housing, establishment of the School of Public Policy and Education, and the Advanced Technology Manufacturing Center, among others. In her letter of resignation to UMass President Robert L. Caret, MacCormack listed several pieces of unfinished business that she hopes to complete. They include expansion of the School of Marine Science and Technology in New Bedford, the Bio-Manufacturing Center in Fall River, securing American Bar Association accreditation for the law school, finishing the renovation of the Claire T. Carney Library, and ``re-engineering enrollment and retention strategies to address a changing marketplace.'' MacCormack expressed frustration at the difficulty in getting enrollment up to 10,000 from 6,000. That's important, she said, because the campus had a 10-1 student-teacher ratio when it could support 16-1. With growth, she said, comes fiscal stability because students pay fees and tuition, which supports programs and development. It also offsets steadily declining state support, down below 20 percent of the budget from as much as 78 percent two decades ago. And yet, she said, public higher education accounts for 80 percent of enrollment and does--in theory, at least--offer as good an education as private schools, although perhaps without the connections a student can make at Harvard, for example. MacCormack touted her efforts to connect UMass Dartmouth with the community, and said she will remain in SouthCoast to perhaps write a book and take up community-related interests. But she will retire, not return to teaching, to give herself a breather after 30 years in administrative jobs that required all of her time. ``UMass Dartmouth is already a model of a university whose teaching and discovery is fully engaged in the life of its community. I am sure that this campus will be attractive to higher education leaders who strive to be entrepreneurial and bold,'' she said in her address. Margaret ``MarDee'' Xifaras, a local attorney and former chairman of the Southern New England School of Law, which was absorbed by UMass, said she doubts MacCormack will slow down all that much. ``Neither one of us is constitutionally capable of doing that,'' she said. MacCormack's pending retirement did not strike her as much of as surprise, she said. ``She always had a sort of a long- term plan that obviously would include retiring, but she was anxious to get things done, and she'll make sure certain things are well under way.'' For merging the law school, Xifaras said, she will be ``eternally grateful'' to the chancellor. ``She was a critical moving force,'' she said. ``Now its time for her to step back from a lifetime of commitment to education. She will be missed.'' Fall River developer James Karam, chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees, said, ``Jean has always understood that educational opportunity was vital to our area and has worked tirelessly to make sure that education of the highest quality was available to all of our citizens.'' He added that MacCormack ``has worked to transform our lives and in the process has transformed our region. She has