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Head of UMaine system graduate center resigns

The Maine Center for Graduate Professional Studies website lists its CEO as Eliot Cutler, a graduate of Deerfield Academy (1964), Harvard University (1968) and the law school at Georgetown University (1974). According to the Maine Center website, Cutler was reportedly in charge of “planning and building a new enterprise that will expand and realign traditional programs in the University of Maine System to create a model for entrepreneurial, multi-disciplinary graduate business and legal programs and to help drive statewide economic development.”

The Maine Center is known for working towards the enhancement of the overall graduate program within the University of Maine System (UMS), including featuring “highly integrated curricula, close engagement with the Maine legal, business and entrepreneurial communities, expanded online and experiential learning, new degree and certificate offerings, and research and development aligned with Maine’s competitive advantages and economic development needs.” The Center was focused on efforts to create a new Portland-based graduate center for the UMS. According to the Portland Press Herald (PPH), the center would house the UMaine School of Law, graduate programs in management, public policy and public health, and a new MBA program.

Cutler was known as a visionary strategist and leader, and has been a successful entrepreneur, investor and business leader. He independently ran for governor twice in Maine, but does not plan to run in 2018. He spent his career thus far in three law firms and two countries over 35 years, helping clients with legal and public policy problems.

On Thursday, Aug. 31, Cutler announced his resignation after two years with the center. He told the PPH, “When I took the job I agreed to get the business plan together and to get the financial structure on a sound footing, but I didn’t intend to make a career of this. We did all that. I’m proud of that. I think it’s very important. Now it’s time to move on.”

Cutler announced his plans for resignation to Chancellor of the UMS James Page in July, but postponed his departure until they received funding from the Harold Alfond Foundation. The funding has provided millions of dollars towards the study and development of the Maine Center. The center was proposed in 2013, and is under a $7.5 million challenge grant, depending on certain benchmarks achieved by the center.

University of Southern Maine (USM) economics professor told the PPH that Cutler was not prepared to work in an academic environment. Cutler commented, “One of the challenges for academics is to better realize the importance of the responsiveness of their programs for what, in this case, the state of Maine and the businesses of Maine need. There is a separation between the academy and the rest of the world that we cannot afford any more. And if I was bringing that news to people who didn’t like to hear it, then so be it. But I don’t think it’s contestable.”

Cutler announced his resignation on Thursday, Aug. 31 with a letter on the Maine Center website. The letter detailed his thanks to the community through the two years he served as the CEO of the Maine Center. He explains he is grateful to Chancellor Page for offering him the assignment of creating the business plan and that he has “completed his mission.”

He plans to work with an asset management firm known as Thornburg Investment Trust, developing their business in China.

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