November 11, 2004
WOODSTOCK, VT — The New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE) has selected Evan S. Dobelle, who has been president of four colleges and universities and was elected to two terms as mayor of Pittsfield, Mass., while still in his twenties, as president and CEO of the nonprofit, six-state education agency, effective Jan. 1, 2005.
“I find President Dobelle to have extraordinary talent, and I know he will do an outstanding job leading NEBHE,” said Louis D’Allesandro, the deputy minority leader in the New Hampshire Senate who is NEBHE chair. “It’s an exciting time for NEBHE.”
NEBHE was established in 1955 by a congressionally authorized, interstate compact designed to encourage cooperation among New England’s 270 public and private colleges and universities. NEBHE programs focus on the relationship between New England higher education and regional economic development.
NEBHE’s 48-member board unanimously confirmed Dobelle’s appointment during its fall meeting in Woodstock, Vt., on Saturday, after a six-month national search that attracted 142 candidates.
The board is comprised of distinguished academics, business leaders and elected officials from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.
“I look forward to the opportunity to lead this critically important organization devoted to access, affordability and excellence for students as it begins its fiftieth year serving New England,” said Dobelle.
Among NEBHE programs, the Regional Student Program (RSP) provides New England residents with a major tuition break at out-of-state public colleges and universities in the six-state New England region if they pursue certain academic programs not offered by their home institutions. In academic year 2003-2004, more than 8,200 New Englanders enrolled through the program, saving a total of $39 million on their tuition bills. The program also saves New England taxpayers millions of dollars because the states don’t have to start up and maintain expensive academic programs offered by other states.
The board also operates programs aimed at encouraging under-represented tudents to pursue studies and careers in high-growth science, technology, engineering and math fields, and publishes the acclaimed journal Connection: The Journal of the New England Board of Higher Education.
An independent arms-length search firm found Dobelle to have had “successful outcomes of his turnaround efforts as president of Middlesex Community College [in Massachusetts], as chancellor and president of the City College of San Franscisco, as president of Trinity College [in Hartford] and as president of the University of Hawaii System.”
The firm noted further that “these significant achievements are particularly noteworthy given the fact that they occurred during periods of austerity, fiscal exigency and declining expectations.”
Dobelle resigned in August from the University of Hawaii presidency, where he retains a professorship in urban and regional planning.
The search firm concluded after a significant background check “that Dr. Dobelle’s efforts in totally reshaping the university and ratcheting up its academic reputation challenged historical notions of the [University of Hawaii] board’s role in policymaking, resource allocation and stewardship.” The firm indicated “that Dr. Dobelle’s leadership and stewardship measured up favorably when considered within the context of the apparent misguided attempts by the university’s governing board to discontinue Dr. Dobelle’s employment —only to result in subsequent vindication, apology and significant severance payout.”
At Hawaii, Dobelle forged a groundbreaking preschool-through-20 educational initiative and spearheaded creation of a film school and construction of a new medical school.
As president of Trinity College from 1995 to 2001, he forged the internationally acclaimed Learning Corridor project to revitalize Hartford. For his efforts there, he was named 1999 “New Englander of the Year” by the New England Council.
Dr. Carole A. Cowan, who chaired the NEBHE search committee said: “The committee felt he had a unique background, a blend of experience of public and private colleges … more than 30 years’ experience in government and higher education.”
Dobelle earned a BA, M.Ed., and Ed.D. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a MPA from Harvard University.
Dobelle succeeds David M. Bartley, the retired Holyoke Community College president and former Massachusetts House speaker who has served as NEBHE’s interim president and CEO since April.