Regents name Gray new system president [Connecticut Post]

May 17, 2013

Article as it appeared in the Connecticut Post

HARTFORD — Pledging to keep tuition as low as possible and work toward distancing the Board of Regents for Higher Education from its rocky start, Gregory W. Gray was named Thursday as the system’s new president.

Gray, 64, who heads the Riverside Community College District in California, will take over July 1.

“The most important thing for this new president to do is to restore trust and a sense of integrity in the system. I am extremely excited about the opportunity,” said Gray, facing reporters moments after the board voted unanimously to award him a three-year contract.

Gray said keeping tuition affordable when state appropriations continue to diminish is a challenge, but keeping colleges accessible is essential to improving the quality of life in the state and strengthening its workforce.

“I really worry that tuition will hit a point where you are limiting access to residents who can’t afford it,” said Gray.
Just last month, state university students picketed over a plan to raise tuition next year by 5 percent.

Gray follows Robert Kennedy, a president picked by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy before the Regents Board was in place. Kennedy resigned last October after it was learned he handed out nearly $300,000 in raises to staff without board approval.

Lewis Robinson, chairman of the board, on Thursday called the selection of Gray a new chapter for the still-young body.
“It’s been a long road,” said Robinson. “But we got through it and I think it is making us stronger.”

Gray will receive an annual salary of $380,000, use of a car and up to $25,000 for moving and temporary housing costs. He will not get some of the other perks Kennedy enjoyed, such as a paid, six-week “professional leave.”

The system over which Gray will preside includes 12 community colleges, four state universities and Charter Oak, the state’s online college. Together, the system has about 100,000 students, 96 percent of whom come from the state.

Yvette Melendez, vice chair of the board, said Gray has a terrific track record and a tremendous amount of energy.

Although some would have liked to see a more diverse candidate pool, Melendez said the board conducted a good search. She said she is grateful the state Legislature last month shifted the decision of who would be the next president from the governor’s hands to the board’s.

State Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, a ranking member of the Legislature’s Higher Education Committee, said she has read some of what Gray has written about leadership, finding it refreshing.

“According to Gray, the problem is not about money, programs, or performance, but a lack of leadership,” said Boucher. “I have great hope that this new president will reinvigorate the culture in the central office, improve morale and bring sound financial management practices of its resources.”

Malloy, in a written statement, called Gray, with more than 40 years in academia, an excellent choice.

A Pennsylvania native, Gray previously served at the State University of New York and Penn State University. He said one of his first goals will be to visit every campus to meet with students, staff and the community.

Anita Gliniecki, president of Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, promised to help him in that task by giving him her map that pinpoints every campus in the system.

“When you are new to the state, having that visual is really helpful. It was the map I used when I came some years ago,” Gliniecki said.