UConn's Radenka Maric picked from 150 applicants to become new school president; base salary $610K

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Interim UConn President Radenka Maric on Wednesday was named the 17th president of the state's flagship university by the Board of Trustees.

Interim UConn President Radenka Maric on Wednesday was named the 17th president of the state's flagship university by the Board of Trustees.

Linda Connor Lambeck / Hearst Connecticut Media

Seven months after being named interim UConn president, and a months-long national search that netted 150 applicants, Radenka Maric was named the 17th president of the state's flagship university.

During a Wednesday morning meeting of the UConn Board of Trustees, members said that as applicants were whittled down to the final three, it became increasingly clear that after 12 years with the university, the Ph.D. has earned the presidency. Previously, she served five years as vice president for research, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

"This was truly a global search," said Dan Toscano, board chairman, during the morning meeting on campus, noting that Maric's recent interview with Gov. Ned Lamont capped the search. At the end, one of the three finalists dropped out. Maric was praised for her mentorship and leadership qualities.

“In our discussions following the interview process it was  clear that the unanimous choice was our own Interim President Radenka Maric,” Toscano said. “I’ve come to know her very well, particularly over the last nine months during her time as interim president. She is a force of nature, deeply committed to UConn, determined to get results, and all-in when it comes to leading this institution into a future that will be defined by success and achievement. And no success is more important to Radenka than student success.”

Maric's contract is still being finalized, but her base salary will be $610,000 with potential for bonuses based on performance, according to UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz. Parker Executive Search, the firm hired to conduct a global search, was paid $200,000.

Toscano said that although the COVID-19 pandemic continues, he believes it is time for the board to "pivot" and make a difference by appointing Maric and her team.  

"I love UConn and I believe in UConn," Maric, a clean energy innovator told the board, adding that she empathizes with students who spent much of the first hour of the board meeting complaining - and warning - that the university is slow to adopt innovative methods to obtain carbon neutrality by 2040, in the face of climate change.

During a 10-minute address to the board after the unanimous vote, Maric, who had served as interim president since Feb. 1, began her five-year term with a summary of her feelings and goals.

Born in the former Yugoslavia, Maric earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Belgrade in Serbia, then moved to Japan, where she received her master’s and Ph.D. in materials science and energy at Kyoto University. She heads the university, the UConn Health Center in Farmington and the UConn Law School.

"Twelve years ago I came to the U of Connecticut as a faculty member because I wanted to be part of the top few public research institutions," Maric said in a half eastern-European accent.

"A condition of my choice was being able to address the growing needs of the students, the middle class and economically disadvantaged backgrounds," she said. "I strongly believe we can build excellence comprehensively across the university, from the classroom, laboratory, athletic fields, the theater, courtroom, bar, K through 12 schools and hospital. By helping our students to be successful and grow in meaningful ways is not limited to the academic pursuit alone. It is also about supporting them on the personal level as human beings, which is why we must continue to do all we can to provide them with vital resources, especially with respect to mental and physical health."

Board Vice Chairman Andrea Dennis-LaVigne, agreed with Toscano that the university is at a "critical point" in trying to reach its goal of excellence. "Dr. Radenka Maric has committed to this entire university to make sure that her desire to make sure that every individual that works, matriculates or volunteers will feel included," she said. "This responsibility does not only fall on our next president, it falls on all of our shoulders, and all of us will do the work."

Board member Sanford Cloud, chairman of the board of the UConn Halth Center and a member of the search committee, called the process "robust" during the interviews of a very diverse pool applicants before selecting Maric. "She is a person of high integrity and good character, transparent and has a vision to advance the mission of this university including but not limited to research, understanding that economic development is a driver for growth of our state, and a focus on having students reach their fuller potential," Cloud said.

Maric succeeds Thomas Katsouleas, who resigned in July 21 after less than two years at the school's president. After Katsouleas stepped down, UConn named Dr. Andrew Agwunobi as interim president, but he eventually stepped away to take a job at a health insurance company.

kdixon@ctpost.com   Twitter: @KenDixonCT