Edmondson inaugurated as University of Southern Maine’s 14th president

The University of Southern Maine formally inaugurated its 14th president on October 12th, embracing Dr. Jacqueline “Jackie” Edmondson with speeches, pomp and promise.

Speakers hailed Edmondson for her kindness, collaboration, leadership and an unwavering devotion to student learning.

The hour-long event began with a procession of faculty and administrators in Hannaford Hall on the Portland Campus, included remarks from several colleagues and culminated with a presidential address. It was followed by a short speech from award-winning actor and USM alumnus Tony Shalhoub ‘77.

Edmondson began her work at the University in July 2022.

“The University of Southern Maine has received a priceless and transformative gift,” said Dr. Johnathan White, an associate teaching professor of History at Penn State Greater Allegheny. “I am proud to call you friend and colleague Dr. Edmondson. We celebrate you on this occasion. In your new season, all you have to do is be yourself, and that will be more than enough.”

Chancellor Dannel Malloy made the inauguration official.

“And now, having charged her with her responsibilities, and before this company, declared our faith in her judgment and leadership, I, Dannel P. Malloy, Chancellor of the University of Maine System, acting on behalf and at the behest of the Board of Trustees of that System, do hereby appoint, affirm, and declare Jacqueline Edmondson to be the 14th President of the University of

Southern Maine, with all the rights and duties thereto pertaining,” Malloy said.

In her year at the University, Edmondson has impressed many, said Trish Riley, Chair of the University of Maine System Board of Trustees.

“President Edmondson’s leadership is distinctive and may be, in part, because she is a musician,” Riley said. “A great orchestra relies on individual performers, practicing for long hours alone to master their works. But symphonies occur only when those disparate parts come together.  In President Edmondson we have a strong conductor who respects each performer and has the skills to bring them together, no matter the many challenges, to produce something extraordinary.”

In her address — greeted by a standing ovation — Edmondson talked of her commitment to work towards the University’s many goals and tackle its challenges.

“This is an exciting time to be a leader in higher education in the United States,” she said. “We are at a moment when we – meaning higher education institutions across the country – must organize and work differently given our changing social and economic conditions, and we – meaning the University of Southern Maine – will do so in a way that delivers on the declared promises of USM’s vision, mission, and distinct identity.

“I am committed to continuing to work collaboratively with the faculty, staff, and students at USM and with others in the University of Maine System in ways that will further advance USM’s already strong reputation and goals,” she continued. “We will confront challenges together – and yes, there are challenges. Yet I have no doubt that we will strengthen our resilience and our financial foundation in the years ahead. We will remain laser-focused on creating an educational environment where all belong and all may flourish. And because we live in a global world that is interconnected, our efforts will strategically link us with needs in communities across the country and elsewhere as we seek to solve problems, educate the public, and create a more just and equitable world.

Edmondson also spoke of her points of pride in the University, her optimism and outlined ABCs for education:

  • A is for academic excellence. USM will be known for academic excellence, and this reputation will extend beyond this region in the years ahead.
  • B is belonging. USM will be a place that fosters a sense of belonging.
  • C is for community: USM will continue to serve its communities, to be part of its communities including those where our campuses are located and others where we build meaningful relationships.

“I have a deep commitment to and respect for this place,” the president said, “one that extends from the historic roots of the Gorham Normal School to the founding of the Lewiston campus in 1988 and to the creation of our more recent online community. I also feel the embrace of our community in the physical spaces that bear the names of extraordinary people like the Wishcampers, the McGoldricks and Dan Crewe. I humbly understand that the places of our University are built on the unceded lands of the Wabanaki people. These places matter, these histories matter, and I will continue to honor our complicated past as we look to the future. I will ensure that our work continues to serve our communities in meaningful ways.”

After Edmondson’s speech, Shalhoub talked of the University’s “special place in my heart” and his affection for Edmondson.

“President Jackie, I love that you are an artist yourself,” Shalhoub said. “Your leadership and vision in patronizing the arts at this University and your understanding of how essential they are to every facet of our human existence is commendable. I am convinced that under your leadership this institution will continue to thrive and set an example for the transformative potential of the arts.”

The 14th President of the University of Southern Maine

Dr. Jacqueline “Jackie” Edmondson brought to USM more than two decades of collective service and progressive leadership experience at Penn State, which currently enrolls nearly 90,000 students. She was a tenured professor and associate dean in the College of Education and later associate vice president and associate dean for undergraduate education, where she worked across 20 campuses to develop curriculum and programs to advance college access and affordability.

Her research focused on education policy, rural education, teacher education and popular culture. In addition to publication in numerous academic journals, she has authored eight books on subjects ranging from education policy to Jesse Owens to Jerry Garcia.

From 2017 to 2022, she served as the Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer of Penn State Greater Allegheny, where nearly half of students are the first in their families to attend college.

While heading the commonwealth campus outside of Pittsburgh, Edmondson launched eight new degree programs in response to regional workforce and student needs. Many match popular programs at USM, including cybersecurity analytics and operations, information science and technology, and criminal justice, as well as recreation, park and tourism management, which was developed as a shared program with two other Penn State campuses.

Edmondson also earned her undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees at Penn State, where she was a first-generation college student who started as a music major before transitioning to elementary education.

Her experiences as a low-income student, who, at 17, became the first in her family to attend college, have driven her dedication to fostering a sense of belonging for all students, and ensuring they have the services and support they need to realize their full potential.

In addition to the new academic programs, Edmondson raised more than $4 million for scholarships and campus priorities, launched initiatives to address housing and food insecurity among students, and was the first to incorporate a student speaker into commencement ceremonies.

She was also known as a collaborator with and champion for campus employees, overseeing renovation of 35% of instructional, faculty and common space, supporting faculty promotion, including to full professor for a significant number of professors, and securing exclusive programs that elevated her institution within the university and the state. For example, starting this summer, Penn State Greater Allegheny will have the sole Bachelor of Social Work program at Penn State. Students can start at 14 of Penn State’s campuses, but must complete the final two years of the degree program at Greater Allegheny.

At Penn State Greater Allegheny, she increased student and employee diversity, and in 2017, started the Crossing Bridges Summit to situate the campus as a catalyst for change in bridging racial divides in the region.

An avid runner, earlier this month Edmondson and four faculty colleagues ran the Pittsburgh Marathon together as a relay team, raising money along the way for a digital fluency initiative on campus that she launched that provides each student a modern device and training to optimize their learning and 21st-century workforce readiness.

Edmondson lives in the president’s residence on the Gorham campus with her husband, Michael. The couple has two adult sons, Jacob and Luke, who both live in the Northeast.