Metro

Suffolk University names two finalists for president

Candidates set to visit campus later this week

A longtime Lesley University president and a former US Army secretary who briefly led the University of New Mexico are the two finalists for president of Suffolk University, the college announced Monday.

Margaret McKenna, who left Lesley in 2007 to lead the Walmart Foundation, and Louis Caldera, who also served as a law school professor in New Mexico, plan to visit the campus later this week before a final vote by university trustees, which could come at a meeting on May 12.

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Suffolk is nearing the end of the search for a permanent leader that began after president James McCarthy abruptly resigned in August 2014. Interim president Norman Smith has run the school since then.

The college had planned to announce three finalists Monday but search committee chairman Mark E. Sullivan Monday said the third finalist withdrew last week. He would not name that person, citing the confidentiality of the search.

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The Globe reported last week that Suffolk was pursuing Martin T. Meehan, but Meehan last week accepted a job as president of the University of Massachusetts.

Meehan on Friday confirmed that Suffolk had expressed interest in him, but said he would not pursue other offers after accepting the UMass post.

The two finalists, both lawyers, are scheduled to visit the downtown college’s campus on Wednesday and Thursday. It is unusual for a private university to announce its finalists publicly. The school said it announced the names in order to generate feedback from students and faculty.

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Although both candidates have experience as university presidents, McKenna spent much longer at Lesley than Caldera did in New Mexico.

Caldera resigned abruptly from that presidency in 2006 after 2½ years, news outlets reported at the time. He was said to have clashed with the board, which rejected his plan to raise admissions standards.

Caldera’s resignation came a year before his contract was to expire and after trustees refused to give him the $25,000 bonus for which he was eligible, a 2006 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education said.

Caldera’s resume includes various high-profile jobs, most of which he held for not more than five years. He served as secretary of the Army, vice chancellor for university advancement at the California State University system, and as a member of President Obama’s transition team, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Caldera served in the California Legislature from 1992 to 1997 as a Democrat representing Los Angeles, according to that state’s online records. In February, he told the Sacramento Bee he was considering a run for the US Senate in California.

McKenna was president of Lesley for 22 years until 2007 and now teaches at Brandeis University. She was president of the Walmart Foundation, a national foundation that administers the charitable efforts of Walmart, from 2007 to 2011 and serves on the board of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Neither candidate responded Monday to requests for comment.

McKenna is also a former vice president of Radcliffe College at Harvard University and served for a year as undersecretary of the US Department of Education.

She also has worked as a civil rights attorney at the US Department of Justice and as deputy counsel in the White House in the 1970s.

Contact Laura Krantz at laura.krantz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurakrantz.
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