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Incoming Mass. Maritime president seeks greater diversity

The incoming president of Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Francis McDonald, says he wants to increase diversity and the number of low-income students at the Cape Cod college.

The state Board of Higher Education confirmed the new president Tuesday after the school’s board of trustees confirmed him earlier this month.

“We need innovation and vision, and we need some passion and some enthusiasm, and I will undoubtedly bring that to the table,” McDonald, 53, told the Board of Higher Education at its meeting in downtown Boston. He is set to start Aug. 10.

McDonald is a longtime administrator at the academy, a 1985 graduate and an adjunct professor. He replaces Rear Admiral Richard Gurnon, 66, who is retiring after a decade running the college and 36 years working there.

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McDonald, before he was confirmed, stressed several times his desire to increase diversity at the quasi-military academy, which is 90 percent white. In 2013, it awarded just two degrees to black students in the graduating class of 332 bachelor’s and master’s students, according to 2013 federal enrollment statistics, the most recent available.

“We have issues with access for underserved students of color,” McDonald said.

McDonald has spent nearly his entire career at the academy, except for 10 years in the commercial nuclear energy industry. He served as executive vice president under Gurnon since 2014, according to his resume. He has also held titles of vice president of operations, dean of enrollment management, director of cooperative education, and associate director of advancement.

McDonald told the board that he sees the presidency as the pinnacle of his career, not a steppingstone. “This is not a resume builder for me, it’s a resume shredder,” he said.

Wayne Mattson, chairman of the academy’s board of trustees, said the presidential job description was “a tall order” but that McDonald covered all the bases, and “bled blue and gold,” the school’s colors.

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The college paid Nantucket-based executive search firm Archer~Martin $62,000 to find candidates, yielding five finalists. The others were a current and a retired captain in the US Coast Guard, a retired Navy rear admiral, and a retired Navy vice admiral, according to their resumes.

Mattson denied that McDonald had an advantage over external candidates. “It was not a done deal for him,” he said.

Gurnon is credited with increasing enrollment and raising SAT scores, but his presidency was at times controversial.

In 2005, the academy’s board of trustees voted 9 to 1 to fire the president, six months after they appointed him, citing a lack of confidence in his ability to manage the college. He was reinstated two weeks later.

McDonald will start with a salary of $195,000. The position comes with an $18,000 housing allowance and a car.


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

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the person speaking to the Mass. Maritime board of trustees.