UNE President Danielle Ripich to step down in 2017

UNE President Danielle Ripich
UNE President Danielle Ripich

After eleven years of bold, innovative leadership, Danielle N. Ripich, Ph.D., president of the University of New England, will step down on June 30, 2017.

Ripich has been called, “the powerhouse behind Maine’s largest private university,” and that accolade from Maine Ahead magazine is just one of many she has earned during her tenure at UNE. In 2011, Mainebiz named her a 2011 “Woman to Watch” and this year named her the Maine Business Leader of the Year in the non-profit category. Junior Achievement of Maine recognized her with its Business Leader of the Year award in 2014, and the American Heart Association presented her with the Crystal Heart Award for her leadership and dedication to improving the heart health of the community.

Ripich often advises UNE students, faculty and staff to “sail for the deep water only,” and during the past decade she has led by example. Since becoming UNE’s fifth president in July 2006, she has guided the University through a period of unprecedented growth, dramatically expanding two campuses in Biddeford and Portland and opening a revolutionary campus in Tangier, Morocco.

“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. “I have served on the Board of Trustees twice, and it is an honor to have worked with her. 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.”

According to Anderson, UNE’s Board of Trustees has formed a search committee and has taken preliminary steps to find the right person to lead the institution. 

In keeping with UNE’s public mission, Ripich built on the University’s strong foundation in health education, launching the College of Pharmacy, College of Dental Medicine and the online College of Graduate and Professional Studies. In response to these innovations, enrollment grew from 4,000 to more than 10,000 students.

“Thanks to the hard work of my colleagues at UNE,” Ripich commented, “I had the rare privilege of managing an ambitious, successful and, more importantly, student-centered institution. 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.”

To keep pace with expanding enrollment, Ripich oversaw tremendous growth on the University’s campuses, making targeted investments in facilities and technological infrastructure and providing students with world-class learning environments. In Biddeford, UNE opened new, modern academic facilities, new residential halls and the George and Barbara Bush Center. This summer, construction begins on University Commons, a facility that will provide space for students, staff and faculty to relax, dine, study and engage with one another. The expansion of UNE spaces in Biddeford under President Ripich’s direction has continued beyond the shoreline, however. In 2015, UNE was gifted Ram Island to serve as a field station to budding marine and environmental scientists.

Ripich also executed her vision to expand Athletics, adding varsity programs in Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey. In 2012, the $20 million Harold Alfond Forum opened with the help of a $10 million grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation. The forum provides UNE’s student athletes and aspiring athletic trainers and exercise scientists with state-of-the-art facilities for competition and learning. The facilities at the UNE athletic complex will soon be expanding again and will accommodate a Women’s Rugby team beginning next fall and the University’s first-ever football program to launch in the fall of 2017.

In Portland, Ripich has overseen a revitalization of the former Westbrook College Campus. The University added new buildings to house colleges of pharmacy and dental medicine and renovated Goddard Hall as well as the historic Alumni Hall building, which will be rededicated in June of 2016. UNE also purchased the Maine Army National Guard armory building adjacent to the campus on Stevens Avenue, renamed it “Innovation Hall,” and launched renovation plans to accommodate expanding programs.

The most ambitious innovation undertaken by UNE under Ripich came to fruition in January 2014 when the University opened a new, state-of-the-art study-abroad campus in Tangier, Morocco, making UNE the only U.S. institution of higher education to own a study-abroad campus specifically designed for the needs of science students. It features world-class labs and classrooms that allow students in the sciences and other majors to stay on track with their academic programs while experiencing the rich cultural heritage of Morocco and the its region.

The changes implemented by Ripich have resulted in a growing national reputation for UNE. The University’s prestige is exemplified by its inclusion in the Princeton Review’s 2016 edition of The Best 380 Colleges and by Brookings Institution ranking of UNE as first in Maine in improving students’ career earnings.  UNE’s graduate online programs in health and education have grown into the College of Graduate and Professional Studies, serving the largest number of students in the University.

In addition, UNE has a more secure financial profile today than at any previous time, and its economic impact on the local economy has never been greater with a $1 billion impact projected for 2016 and an annual donation of more than $21 million worth of health services to the community.

Ripich’s administration has strengthened UNE’s commitment to making the University more accessible and more affordable for Maine students, signing agreements with various community colleges and high schools throughout the state that permit high performing students to enter UNE with an advanced standing, thereby allowing them to attain a degree in less time and with decreased tuition expenses.

Furthermore, as part of the ongoing effort to contain costs for students while providing them with top-notch educational experiences, Ripich instituted the UNE Pledge, a pact that will be enacted for the first time with the current graduating class. It ensures students the opportunity to study abroad at no additional cost; promises that no additional lab or studio fees will be charged regardless of major; guarantees access to internships and research opportunities; and secures Alumni Investment Awards and Lifetime Partnership Awards for all students who graduate from a four-year UNE program and who continue their UNE education by enrolling in a UNE graduate program, respectively.

Most importantly, the UNE that Ripich has ushered into existence is replete with students who are thriving, both on campus and off, as they apply the knowledge they have gained on UNE’s campuses to learning experiences in Maine and around the globe. 

Before assuming the UNE helm, Ripich served as dean of the College of Health Professions at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and as a professor in the MUSC College of Medicine’s Department of Neurology. She also served as associate dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. She holds a Ph.D. in speech pathology from Kent State University and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in speech pathology from Cleveland State University where she was given the “Outstanding Alumni Award.” She is internationally recognized for her language research, particularly in the areas of child language and Alzheimer’s disease. The American Association for the Advancement of Science named her a Congressional Fellow.  She is also a Fellow of the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions and a Fellow of the American Speech Language and Hearing Association. She has published extensively in her field, editing books, writing book chapters, placing articles in peer-reviewed journals and serving as editorial consultant to numerous medical and language journals. 

Read the joint statement issued by Senators Susan Collins and Angus King

Read more from the Portland Press HeraldBangor Daily News, Mainebiz and WPOR

Read an updated story from the Portland Press Herald about the President's retirement plans.