University of Massachusetts President Jack Wilson on Wednesday recommended to the school's trustees that Michael F. Collins, former CEO of the Caritas Christi Health Care System, become chancellor of UMass-Boston, opting to shut out J. Keith Motley, who had served as interim chancellor.
Collins, a clinical professor of internal medicine at Tufts University, said he plans to use the experience he gained leading the hospital system and in various university faculty position.
"I think the important first step for me is that the welfare of our students will continue to be the highest priority," he said. "I see no conflict between the goals of access and excellence."
In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Collins said he plans to pursue the school's "urban mission," but said it was "premature" to say whether or not he would attempt to revive the school's efforts to locate student residences on Columbia Point.
Local sentiment had leaned heavily in favor of Motley, the interim chancellor named to replace Jo Ann Gora, who left last year after her efforts to build on-campus dormitories led to a souring of relationships with the community. In a telephone interview Wednesday, Wilson said he picked Collins based largely on "the extensive experience he has running complex organizations that are community-based and filled with professionals."
The decision angered many who had backed Motley, who is black.
"I think it should give pause to any minority of middle management or upper management who think they have a chance to play on an equal footing," said state Rep. Marie St. Fleur, vice chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee, who called the Reporter to register her displeasure.
"I think it is reflective of a sentiment that it is almost impossible for an individual to get a fair shot here," St. Fleur said, adding that there was no indication of flaws in Motley's handling of the post.
Students and faculty lobbied hard for Motley, passing out fliers, setting up a website, and demonstrating, but much of the city's political establishment also swung into action. At the April search committee meeting, leading black political figures weighed in with support for Motley, after news leaked that the search committee wasn't planning to include him in its list of recommendations to Wilson.
The committee did, but clearly favored Collins and the third candidate, University of Michigan general counsel Marvin Krislov.
Wilson disputed St. Fleur's characterization, saying, "I think that in fact we ran a very fair search. We used affirmative action in the search."
He said, "I know there's a disappointment when the favored candidate isn't appointed, but I don't think that one should jump from that to the fact that there isn't opportunity. There is opportunity. The very fact that Dr. Motley was appointed as interim chancellor proves there is opportunity."
Wilson described Motley as "disappointed." He said he hoped Motley would remain at UMass, but declined to speculate about a specific position.
Collins, 49, is the second cousin of Reporter publisher Edward W. Forry.
Collins led Caritas, New England's second-largest health care system, from 1994 to 2004, when he was forced out by Archbishop Sean O'Malley, and was president of Brighton's St. Elizabeth's Medical Center from 1994 until 2001. A graduate of Holy Cross and medical school at Tufts, he has also taught at Texas Tech University.
Trustees are expected to vote on Wilson's choice at a May 25 meeting at UMass-Dartmouth.