University of New England President Danielle Ripich is retiring in 2017, ending her tenure after overseeing a decade of dramatic growth at the school’s campuses in Biddeford and Portland, and opening a campus in Morocco.

Ripich said she is looking forward to retirement and spending more time with her seven grandchildren. Two years ago, she purchased a farm in County Cork, Ireland, a property on the ocean that she plans to visit more often. Her grandfather was from County Cork.

“I feel the need to get in touch with the land and my grandchildren,” Ripich said in a telephone interview Tuesday night. Her grandchildren live in South Carolina and Ohio. She doubts that she will return to work in education. “It’s going to be a real retirement.”

Ripich, 71, became the fifth president of the private university in July 2006.

During her tenure, UNE launched the College of Pharmacy, College of Dental Medicine and the online College of Graduate and Professional Studies. Enrollment more than doubled, growing from 4,000 students to more than 10,000 students today. Tuition, fees, room and board at UNE cost about $48,000 a year.

“Over the last decade, President Ripich has been a bold and visionary leader for the University of New England,” Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King of Maine said in a joint statement. “Her commitment to innovation, growth and academic excellence has not only enriched the lives of thousands of students, but it has also contributed immeasurably to our state.


“We join with UNE students, faculty, and staff in thanking her for all that she has done to advance higher education in Maine, and we wish her nothing but the best in her next chapter of life.”

Ripich shared the credit for what UNE has accomplished with the faculty and staff.

“Thanks to the hard work of my colleagues at UNE, I had the rare privilege of managing an ambitious, successful and, more importantly, student-centered institution,” Ripich said in a statement. “We hired when many other institutions were downsizing, gave raises when salaries were stagnant, and added new facilities when others couldn’t. We are now an innovative, modern and global institution. No president could hope for better people or a better outcome. Leading UNE has been the honor of my life, and I look forward to watching its future.”

Its largest senior class – 1,730 students – will graduate this month. And new admissions for the fall of 2016 are up again this year with 809 students paying their admission fee. Last year at this time, 703 students paid the admission fee.

Ripich said the strong interest in UNE is the result of the university marketing itself more effectively and favorable mentions in high-profile publications.

UNE was mentioned in the 2016 Princeton Review’s edition of “The Best 380 Colleges,” and by the Brookings Institution, which ranked UNE as first in Maine for improving students’ career earnings.


Ripich said she is proud of the university for supporting an initiative to open a new study abroad campus in Tangier, Morocco, that is geared toward students who are studying science.

“The next president’s challenge will be to keep the momentum going because tougher times are ahead for sure,” Ripich said.

Ripich broke the news of her retirement plans during separate meetings Tuesday morning with senior management and faculty.

Dora Anne Mills joined the staff at UNE in 2011 after serving as director of the Maine Center for Disease Control. Mills is the university’s vice president for clinical affairs and director of the Center for Health Innovation. Mills said Tuesday’s announcement was an emotional one for her and her colleagues. Ripich recruited her to UNE, Mills said.

“Her impact on the university has been immeasurable,” Mills said Tuesday evening. “A number of us came to work at the University of New England because of Danielle. I fell in love with the university and with Danielle.”

Mills said UNE’s growth has been extraordinary.


“It takes a team effort to grow a university,” Mills said. “But it also takes strong leadership. She has allowed UNE to be innovative and she has been very student-focused. She will be leaving the university in great shape.”

UNE also added varsity programs in men’s and women’s ice hockey during Ripich’s tenure, and opened the $20 million Harold Alfond Forum athletic facility. It doubles as a teaching facility for athletic trainers and exercise scientists.

In 2017, UNE will field its first women’s rugby team and its first football program.

“The University of New England has grown tremendously under the leadership of Danielle Ripich,” said David Anderson, president of the University of New England Board of Trustees. “She has brought sound financial footing to the institution while at the same time propelling it forward. She has always said UNE is a private institution with a public mission, and she has lived those words. Her vision and passion for higher education will be truly missed.”

Ripich said the university’s endowment is about $55 million or approximately twice the amount it was when she became president 10 years ago.

Ripich was recently named Maine Business Leader of the Year by Mainebiz.

A search committee will be formed this summer to find Ripich’s replacement. Ripich expects that the search will be international in scope with the goal of naming a successor by the spring of 2017.

Ripich’s last day will be June 30, 2017.


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