University of Maine president Susan J. Hunter speaks during the University of Maine's 215th Commencement at Alfond Arena in 2017. Credit: Ashley L. Conti

The day before announcing the University of Maine’s next president, the university system received $5 million to start a fund aimed at keeping the new hire around for a while.

On Monday, the university announced the Harold Alfond Foundation gift, meant to establish a “Maine leadership endowment fund.” The money will be used to help the university system “fund a nationally competitive compensation package for the next University of Maine president,” according to a news release.

Current UMaine President Susan Hunter, who is slated to retire this summer, earns $275,000. The University of New Hampshire recently hired James Dean Jr. to lead the state’s largest public university, and is paying him $445,000 per year in base pay.

“Given the challenges facing higher education and our state’s economy, high-quality executive leadership at Maine’s flagship university is critical,” Gregory W. Powell, chairman of the Alfond Foundation, said Monday. “The foundation’s grant will enable the University of Maine to compete nationally for a top-tier president and to help incentivize a long-term commitment to our state.”

The university expects to announce its 21st president during an event Tuesday morning. University of Maine System trustees approved the hiring during a meeting last month, but their choice’s identity has been withheld until a contract is signed.

The finalists:

Joan Ferrini-Mundy is chief operating officer of the National Science Foundation, an organization in which she’s held leadership roles since 2007. Prior to her work with the foundation, she held administrative roles at Michigan State University and the University of New Hampshire. She has a doctorate in mathematics education from the University of New Hampshire.

Sally Reis served as vice provost for academic affairs at the University of Connecticut from 2011 to 2017. She was named a distinguished professor there, and she has 40 years of teaching experience ranging from middle school to college. She was head of the educational psychology program at UConn from 2000 to 2006, and has a doctorate in educational psychology from the UConn.

Amit Chakma has worked as president and vice chancellor at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada, since 2009. He also is a chemical engineering professor at the university. Prior to that role, he was academic vice president and provost at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. He earned a doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of British Columbia.

Another candidate, University of New Hampshire Provost Nancy Targett, withdrew after being named a finalist.

Whoever takes on the UMaine presidency will be leading not only the system’s largest campus, but also its smallest, the University of Maine at Machias. The Machias campus struggled through years of budget deficits, leadership changes, shrinking enrollments and cuts aimed at keeping the institution afloat. The University of Maine has since taken UMM under its wing, accepting the bulk of administrative responsibility for the smaller campus.

Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.

Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.