Joan Ferrini-Mundy chats with people after a ceremony announcing, that she will be the next president of the University of Maine. The event was held at the Buchanan Alumni Hall on the Orono campus Tuesday. Credit: Gabor Degre | BDN

ORONO, Maine — A top official at the federal agency that supports research and education initiatives across the United States will become the University of Maine’s 21st president.

Joan Ferrini-Mundy, chief operating officer of the National Science Foundation, is expected to take the helm of the state’s flagship university this summer. She’ll also serve as president of the system’s smallest campus, the University of Maine at Machias, which UMaine too k under its wing as part of a primary partnership last summer.

Chancellor James Page introduced Ferrini-Mundy to the campus during an event at Buchanan Alumni Hall on Tuesday morning.

The University of Maine System board of trustees approved the New Hampshire native’s hiring during a meeting last month but kept the pick silent until a contract was ironed out and signed. The hiring follows a nine-month national search and interviewing process.

Ferrini-Mundy, 63, has been working at the National Science Foundation, an organization with a $7.8 billion operating budget, in various high-level roles since 2007. She also has held administrative and teaching roles at Michigan State University and the University of New Hampshire, where she also earned a doctoral degree in mathematics education.

Throughout the week, she’s expected to hold meetings with groups of faculty, staff, students and community leaders at the Orono and Machias campuses. She said she expects to continue learning and speaking with faculty, staff and students as she prepares to take over the presidency. She plans to move to Orono with her husband by July 1.

“Leadership at Maine’s flagship university comes with great opportunity to advance scholarship and discovery and an incredible obligation to deploy university research and talent in service to the state and its students,” Ferrini-Mundy said Tuesday. “I am particularly eager to work with our colleagues at the University of Maine at Machias to pursue initiatives that strengthen our service to Maine and build stronger pathways to Maine careers.”

She called the new task “daunting and exciting,” and said she looks forward to “helping to tell the story of UMaine and the University of Maine at Machias.”

Page said Ferrini-Mundy was more than qualified to take up the task of strengthening UMaine’s hold as a nationally recognized research university and continuing the Machias campus’ recovery in the wake of years of declining enrollment and budget deficits.

She will succeed President Susan Hunter, who has served in that role since July 2014 and plans to retire this summer. Hunter was appointed following the unexpected departure of former President Paul Ferguson, who left to lead Indiana’s Ball State University. The cell biologist and researcher with a long history at UMaine was the first woman to lead the university in its 153 years.

Hunter started at the Orono campus as a research associate in 1982 and became a full professor in the department of zoology in 1991. She has since worked as chair of the department of biological sciences, dean of undergraduate admission and most recently as executive vice president of academic affairs and provost.

Before her appointment to the presidency, Hunter worked a short stint as the system’s vice chancellor of academic affairs.

Ferrini-Mundy will receive a base salary of $350,000 a year. Hunter’s salary was $275,000.

On Monday, a day before introducing Ferrini-Mundy, the university announced that a $5 million gift from the Harold Alfond Foundation would fund an endowment to cover the costs of the pay increase. The fund is intended to boost compensation, retain quality leadership at the university and prevent the president from seeking better paying work at other New England universities, according to system officials.

The University of New Hampshire recently hired its 20th president, who is making a base salary of $445,000.

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