August 31, 2009
University of Maine at Fort Kent President, Dr. Richard W. Cost, will retire following the 2009/2010 academic year, bringing an end to eight years of unprecedented enrollment, physical and academic growth, and statewide and national recognition.
Dr. Cost, the ninth president in UMFK's 131-year history, announced his retirement intentions Friday afternoon at a Campus Development Day assembly of students, faculty and staff.
"President Cost has been a strong and effective advocate for higher education, UMFK, and for the interests of the St. John Valley. During his seven years as president, he earned statewide respect as a leader, spokesperson, and supporter of educational opportunities and economic development," said University of Maine System Chancellor, Dr. Richard L. Pattenaude. "He and his wife, Ellen, have made significant contributions to UMFK's advancement as an institution of higher education.
"President Cost has great plans for UMFK during the upcoming year, and the presidents and I look forward to continuing our work with him. Meanwhile, I will be recommending to the Trustees a national search to identify President Cost's successor. Our objectives will be to identify the right leader for the position and to create as seamless a transition as possible," Chancellor Pattenaude added.
In addressing the campus gathering, Dr. Cost said, "It is an honor and an absolute joy to lead the marvelous professionals, faculty, administrators and staff who run this great university. People who work here love their jobs and really care about students. This campus is a model of efficiency because everyone puts students first.
"I reported to my first ship in the Navy shortly after my graduation from college in 1964 and I have been running full speed ever since. Next June I will turn 68 and I think it is time to slow down, to spend more time with family and friends, to do a great deal more painting, and to spend somewhat less time on the job."
Dr. Cost took considerable pride in noting that a number of recent studies have documented that UMFK provides access to Bachelor and Associate degrees to the people of the St. John Valley and the state of Maine, at the lowest per student cost to the state.
"At a time of economic challenge for this state and the nation, that is important," Dr. Cost noted. "And at the same time the institution has been recognized by The Princeton Review as a "Best Northeastern College" for five years in a row and this year U.S. News & World Report added UMFK to their listing as well, and our nursing graduates continue to lead the state of Maine in first-time pass rate on the national nursing exam."
In spite of his plans to retire in the spring, Dr. Cost noted that there is much work to be accomplished and many achievements to look forward to over the course of the academic year.
Chief among them are the successful completion of the 2009-14 Strategic Plan; the anticipated accreditation of UMFK's Forestry Program by the Society of American Foresters; a return to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) national tournament by the men's and women's soccer teams; and preparing for UMFK's role in the St. John Valley's hosting of the 2014 Acadian World Congress.
At the time that he came to Fort Kent in August 2002, Dr. Cost challenged the campus to grow from its current enrollment of 850 students to 1,000. The campus responded to that challenge, and exceeded that figure by more than 300 students by the fall of 2006.
To date, the "Cost Years" at UMFK have been marked by a number of significant achievements and milestones. Among them are:
On an individual level, Dr. Cost has served as president of the Maine Higher Education Council (2006-07); chaired the Sunrise (athletics) Council for six years, growing it from five to eight member institutions; serves on the national council of Presidents of the NAIA; and as secretary of the America's First Mile committee supporting the Town of Fort Kent; and he is a trustee of the Northern Maine Medical Center.
Dr. Cost was named by the state Commissioner of Education, Susan Gendron, to a task force on secondary education policy that met throughout the year in 2006.
In 2007, Dr. Cost chaired an accreditation team visit at the New Hampshire Institute of Art for NEASC. This October, he will chair a similar visit to Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho for the Northwest Commission on Higher Education.
During 2008, Dr. Cost served on a national task force for The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) to create a voluntary system of Accountability for Public Colleges and Universities. He chaired a sub-committee on Family Financial Information, which resulted in a predictive cost calculator for families.
"This campus has been a perfect fit for me and for Ellen, and these have been extraordinarily happy years for us.
"We have made many lifelong friends in this wonderful community. After we retire, we intend to continue spending the month of August on Eagle Lake, to go fishing on the Miramichi River in April, and to continue to visit with the great people of this community. Hopefully in retirement we will be able to actually play golf, and spend more time with our friends. We have three terrific children and six grandchildren ranging in age from 2 to 15. We want to spend more time visiting them.
"I am proud of this institution and the role that it plays in providing high quality, accessible education for students who will flourish best in its small campus environment.
"At an institution where everyone wears many hats, every day is new and exciting. What remains constant is the dual focus on quality education and student success," Dr. Cost concluded.