Amid the cold cement floors, stone pillars and orange extension cords of the Glickman Family Library’s unfinished fifth floor stood hundreds of supporters gathered to support USM’s president. The celebration marked Richard Pattenaude’s tenth anniversary in that position.
Last week over 300 community leaders, political leaders, University administrators and friends looked on as speaker after speaker praised Pattenaude’s hard work and achievements.
The 56-year old admitted that just surviving the 10 years was an achievement in itself.
“It’s unusual for a president to last 10 years,” he said. “It’s a tough controversial job that demands a lot. A lot of people just burn out.”
But last week’s praise went well beyond Pattenaude’s survival.
“I can’t imagine this school under anybody else’s leadership,” said Student Senate Treasurer Justin LaBerge. “It’s because of his vision.”
Pattenaude’s vision was one of the night’s common themes and something that he said is one of his strengths.
“It’s a natural tendency,” he said. “I consider it part of my job to keep the big picture in sight and keep moving in that direction.”
Even during his celebration, Pattenaude made it clear he was more concerned with the future than reflecting on the past. He made several references to major projects looming on the horizon, such as the completion of the Glickman Family Library and the $19 million community complex and parking garage planned for the Portland campus. Pattenaude said that despite current budget problems, the projects will be completed.
“Budget problems may slow us down, but they will not stop us. We have trajectory and momentum,” he said.
In an interview a day after the celebration Pattenaude said he’s proud of many things in his last 10 years, especially USM’s growing reputation.
“That we’re a solid academic institution is one part. The other is that we’re known as an institution that cares about its community.”
But the last 10 years have also seen major upgrades to campus facilities, including the Costello Sports Complex , Philippi Hall in Gorham and the Glickman Family Library in Portland. External funding has also reached record levels in recent years. The Office of Sponsored Programs reported receiving over $29 million from external sources last year for research and development. Enrollment has also risen to the point that USM is Maine’s largest university. Pattenaude said he wouldn’t have done many things differently, but he could have approached academics more strongly.
“I think I should have pushed harder and earlier on academic programs,” he said. “But we’re moving well on the academic side now.”
He said that the external funding and growing reputation helps the University to improve academics.
The president takes little responsibility for USM’s achievements.
“I have the lucky opportunity to be the visible one, but the progress results from the hard work from the people around me. It’s an understanding that I don’t get anything done by myself.”
Executive Editor Steve Peoples can be contacted at: [email protected]