PORTLAND, Maine — New University of Maine System Chancellor James H. Page said Thursday morning he plans to make the system “more aligned, more nimble, more innovative and more accountable.”

UMS faculty members hope Page, who teaches philosophy at the flagship Orono campus, can help turn around relations between the faculty and administration because of his classroom pedigree. The faculty’s union, the Associated Faculties of the University of Maine System, has been without a settled contract for eight months amid what have at times been contentious negotiations.

Page, 59, was introduced to the news media after a nearly 40-minute private meeting of the board of trustees’ executive committee in the Wishcamper Center at the University of Southern Maine, during which the panel voted unanimously to appoint him to the post. Page, CEO of James W. Sewall Co. in Old Town and an adjunct associate professor of philosophy at the University of Maine, will start work as chancellor March 20. His annual salary will be $277,500.

A representative of system faculty members, who are scheduled to meet with UMS contract negotiators in two more mediation sessions over the next two weeks, applauded the selection of a chancellor with experience teaching in the system. Ed Collum — a USM sociology professor and president of the campus’s branch of the union — said he hopes Page will be sympathetic to the faculty and bring “transparency and leadership” to the position.

The trustees chose Page over finalists Rebecca Wyke, the system’s current vice chancellor for finance and administration, and former University of Arizona executive vice president and provost Meredith Hay. Page will replace Richard Pattenaude, who announced plans to retire from the chancellorship last May.

“Dr. Page’s experience both in academic settings and running a multimillion-dollar business made him an ideal candidate,” board chairwoman Michelle Hood told reporters Thursday.

Hood said Page’s diverse background bridging business and education prime him to implement the trustees’ recently recalibrated goals, which involve development of postsecondary programs that are more responsive to business and work force needs in the state.

Page, the first Maine native and system alumnus to be named the University of Maine System chancellor, said he would not discuss details of any changes he might propose to the system, but acknowledged priorities on making the UMS campuses more affordable to students and more focused on educational excellence.

He also recognized the budget constraints facing the state and the system.

“I’m not going to get into specifics, but how do we allocate our resources to meet both of those goals?” Page posed.

Page said his academic background is in analytical philosophy, a subject that is transferable to his business work and his new post.

“It’s essentially very complex problem solving,” he said. “It’s actually very content-neutral.”

The new chancellor said he plans to tour the state early in his tenure, building relationships with government and industry leaders to ensure the system’s seven campuses are plugged in to economic development and job market trends.

“I want the university system to be front [and] center in all the discussions going on in those areas,” he said.

Collum, who welcomed Page to the position during the morning press conference on behalf of the faculty, told reporters after the event he “ranked [Page’s] candidacy the highest” of the three applicants.

Collum said the faculty union and system administration remain at loggerheads over proposed salary figures in the next contract. He said faculty members accepted no cost-of-living pay adjustments in their previous pact and are now calling for such increases, while system finance officials have said 0.5 percent annual wage increases are all the university campuses can afford in the current economy.

Collum said he hopes Page allows more faculty involvement in system-level budgeting.

“We are pleased to see a Ph.D. faculty member taking over the chancellor’s office, someone who has experience being a faculty member in the system,” he said.

Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.