A Biddeford native has been named president of the five-campus University of Massachusetts system.

Robert Caret, 63, will succeed retiring President Jack Wilson. “It’s a new challenge,” he said of his new position.

For the past eight years, Caret has been president of Towson University in Maryland. From 1995 to 2003, he was president of San Jose State University, one of the largest institutions in the California State University System. Before that, he worked for 21 years in various capacities at Towson University.

When Caret left Biddeford to attend Suffolk University in Boston, he was the first member of his immediate family to attend college.

“It was an exciting jump to be the first child to go to college,” said Caret, whose father never attended high school and whose mother received her high school diploma.

After earning a doctorate in organic chemistry from the University of New Hampshire, Caret began working as a professor in 1974 at Towson University. After a sabbatical in the early 1980s, he considered entering academic administration.

Caret said the opportunity to serve as dean of natural and mathematical sciences at Towson University, starting in 1981, changed the course of his career.

“When I reflect back, it’s amazing. With just a few steps and the help of faculty, it can change your life,” he said.

Wilson, the current UMass system president, is expected to step down at the end of June. Caret said he is still negotiating a start date, but expects to begin this spring, before Wilson’s departure.

He said it will be tough leaving the university where he spent most of his career, but Caret sees the position with the UMass as the “capstone to my career.”

 

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: [email protected]