UM regents appoint interim system chief

Vivona is named, in move that signals search has slowed

February 12, 2002|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

In another sign that its search for a new university system chancellor is behind schedule, the state Board of Regents announced yesterday the appointment of an interim system head starting May 1, after Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg retires.

Board Chairman Nathan A. Chapman Jr. said that Joseph F. Vivona, vice chancellor for administration and finance, will take over until the regents appoint a permanent chancellor.

"This is prudent management on our part just to make sure we have someone ready to take over," Chapman said.

The regents had planned to name a replacement for Langenberg in time for his retirement April 30. But their timetable was pushed back in December, amid a flurry of debate about Gov. Parris N. Glendening's bid for the $345,000-a-year position.

Glendening had indicated his interest in the chancellor's job in a national education journal, but quickly withdrew his name from consideration Dec. 5 after major university donors, lawmakers and ethics experts criticized him for seeking a position filled by the regents - all of whom he had appointed. Critics also worried that a Glendening candidacy would keep other qualified candidates from applying.

Two days after Glendening bowed out, the Board of Regents voted to give itself four extra months, until Sept. 1, to name a chancellor.

Decision a `logical step'

System officials said that the naming of Vivona indicated only that, as expected, the search is not likely to be concluded by April 30.

"This is just the logical next step" from the vote to push the deadline to September, said Francis Canavan, an associate vice chancellor for advancement.

Vivona, who specified yesterday that he is not a candidate for chancellor, has been with the system for five years after having served as chief financial officer of the U.S. Department of Energy, deputy budget director and deputy comptroller for New Jersey and vice chancellor of the City University of New York. In his current position, he oversees the university system's budget and briefs the regents on its finances.

Vivona is `highly regarded'

"He's an excellent thinker and highly regarded by the presidents," said Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Those close to the chancellor search said the regents' screening committee met two weeks ago to discuss the applications it had in hand. But the committee did not set a date for its next meeting, exacerbating concerns among some panel members and regents that the search is not proceeding quickly enough, those close to the search say.

The search committee is being led by Chapman, a Baltimore investment manager whose firm was terminated Friday as manager of $175 million in state pension funds, in part because of to the firm's poor investment returns last year. The money Chapman's company invested for the state accounted for about a fifth of the company's revenue.

Chapman said the attention his company requires would not prevent him from fulfilling his responsibilities as regent chairman and head of the screening committee.

"There's a great staff at the university system, and they make my job as chairman a lot easier," he said. "The way I try to take things off my plate is by completing them."

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