Former student confirmed as Bridgewater State president

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, DEC. 2, 2014…..Bridgewater State University’s own Fred Clark will take over the campus next summer as president after the Board of Higher Education on Tuesday unanimously approved his selection by trustees.

Clark, an alumnus and the university’s current executive vice president and vice president of external affairs, emerged from a national pool of three finalists to succeed current president Dana Mohler-Faria, who announced in March he would retire at the end of the school year after 13 years as president.

Clark, who will assume his new role July 1, tasked himself with keeping Bridgewater State University both affordable and accessible for students in the region by looking to private sources of funding and extending support services to students and adult-learners who work their way through school.

“We no longer can rely on state funding the way we did when I was a student,” Clark told the board.

Clark served as Gov. Deval Patrick’s first chairman of the Board of Higher Education and twice headed up the Council of Presidents of the Massachusetts State Colleges. After college, he worked for 18 years as an aide to former Congressman Joseph Moakley.

“It’s emotional for me. I’ve never really left,” Clark said of taking over the presidency of a college where he graduated and sent both his sons.

The other finalists were Ashish Vaidya, special advisor to the president for regional economic development at California State University in Los Angeles, and Bradley Cook, executive vice president and provost of Southern Utah University.

A fourth candidate – Cathy Sandeen, vice president for education attainment and innovation at the American Council on Education – dropped out of the process before her interview to accept a position as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin Colleges.

Clark will earn $228,000 a year in his new position, plus an $18,000 housing allowance that does not count toward his pension. Mohler-Faria will earn almost $276,000 for his last year as president.

Clark told the board of Higher Education that 80 percent of students at Bridgewater State work while in school, with half of those working more than 30 hours a week. In order to produce the number of graduates experts suggest the Massachusetts economy will need in the future, Clark said it will be important to provide the support services for those students to help them earn their degrees.

Clark also put a premium on increasing the diversity of the campus, and said he would continue with Bridgewater’s efforts to engage with leaders in former industrial centers and urban hubs like New Bedford to increase high school graduation rates and provide a pathway to college.

Though Clark said he supports a recommendation from the Higher Education Finance Commission for $95 million in additional annual support from the state, he said it would be important to tap private sources of funding to keep tuition and fees low.

“I think we have to work harder and smarter to focus on private funds,” he said. “I don’t have high hopes that we’re going to get additional state funds, but we can’t give up on that front either.”

Clark also discussed expanding Bridgewater State’s adult learning programs to match the needs of the surrounding business market and give more people access to degrees, and suggested he would look to bring Bridgewater into the world of online course offerings.

Mohler-Faria said he was focused on the transition and would wait until the spring to consider any new job opportunities.

Copyright 2014 State House News Service

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