LOWELL -- What started out in 1963 as a five-year "experiment" for Dr. William Hogan will end the first week in July, when the 73-year-old resigns as chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
Hogan shared his decision with some of his top deputies the middle of last week. But it wasn't until yesterday that most of UMass Lowell's administrators and faculty members learned that soon they'll be working for a new chancellor.
"I'm just stunned," Athletic Director Dana Skinner said after Hogan announced his decision to about 200 faculty and administrators shortly after 10 a.m., inside Cumnock Hall on North Campus.
Hogan is a Chelmsford resident who has carved a solid reputation for successfully transforming UMass Lowell from a small university into a nationally renowned, multidisciplined school that stands on the cusp of a $266 million capital-improvement plan that, if successful, will make it into a bio- and nano-technology research and development hub.
UMass President Jack Wilson hailed Hogan as a "visionary, a pioneer and a consummate leader and educator."
Asked if he was sad to be leaving the university that has been such a large part of his life for more than four decades, Hogan replied: "I don't go up, I don't go down. But I feel good with what I've decided."
With his wife Mary and two small children in tow, Hogan left AVCO Corporation in 1963 to teach mechanical engineering at what was then called Lowell Technological Institute in 1963. At AVCO, Hogan directed a group of engineers responsible for the design, construction and evaluation of wind tunnels used to simulate space-vehicle re-entry into the earth's atmosphere for the purpose of heat-shield material evaluation.
"I wanted to check out the public side of things," said Hogan. "It was really set up as a five-year experiment."
Hogan was appointed head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering in 1966, acting dean of engineering in 1971, and in 1973 was appointed the first dean of the newly organized College of Engineering at Lowell Tech.
The institute merged with Lowell State College in 1975 to create the University of Lowell, and Hogan was appointed first vice president for academic affairs of the newly formed university.
Succeeding John Duff, Hogan served as president of the university from 1981 until 1991. When the school became part of the UMass system in 1991, Hogan was named chancellor. As chancellor, Hogan earns $235,000 a year.
When many college and university leaders stay at a job for about six years, Hogan said his 25-year tenure is somewhat of an anomaly.
Furthermore, he said today's college and university presidents come from a different world, a world of marketing and fundraising.
Some of them, he said, are "carpet-baggers," because they're intent on staying in a job for about six years before moving on to something bigger and better.
He said he's most proud that during his 25 years, all major accreditations were retained. They include those from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology and the National Council for Accreditation of Teaching Education.
The other accomplishment Hogan listed is "the spirit of this place,"
"This university has good people" who work hard and strive to make UMass Lowell better, Hogan added.
But Hogan will surely be remembered for developing plans to renovate UMass Lowell's three campuses to the tune of $266 million, to transform it into a bio- and nano-tech research and development center. Half that amount the university will borrow, and the other half it hopes to secure from the state Legislature.
Hogan said that when it became clear earlier this year that the UMass board of trustees would react favorably to the university's plan to borrow $133 million, he began seriously thinking about his future.
In 2003, Hogan spearheaded another 10-year drive to improve the way faculty teaches and students learn.
The latter plan is about 20 percent complete, while the building plan is still in its infancy.
"I'll be 74 on my next birthday, and if you add the years it will take to complete those projects, I'd be doing it at 81, and there's no way I'm going to be doing that at 81 years old," said Hogan, who was born in the Lower Highlands, the son of a trolley and bus driver and a stay-at-home mom.
"I love my job," Hogan added. "I have been fortunate to work with an incredible group of people, from those responsible for keeping the buildings running to the deans and vice chancellors. But after 25 years, it is time to retire."
Hogan said his health is good and he could keep working for a few more years. But now that those plans have been laid, it's someone else's turn to see them through.
"I think it is in the best interest of the campus and the university systems to retire now so that the board of trustees can conduct a search that will attract a wide field of candidates, unlike what would happen if I were to stay for a few more years when the projects are half-complete," Hogan said.
Hogan said he hopes the next chancellor is in it for the long haul and takes "deep ownership" of the projects under way.
Wilson was nothing but complimentary of Hogan.
"It is fair to say that Chancellor Hogan invented UMass Lowell and then reinvented the campus several times along the way," Wilson said in a statement. "Chancellor Hogan established the gold standard in terms of community involvement, building partnerships and bonds in Lowell and in the Merrimack Valley that have brought economic success and social progress to the region."
Frederick Sperounis, Hogan's executive vice chancellor and confidante, learned of Hogan's decision less than a week ago.
"His service to this university has been nothing but remarkable," said Sperounis. "He's built the university to what it is today, and he's going out on top."
Provost John Wooding, vice chancellor for academic affairs, said Hogan's vision of what a state university ought to be is "imbedded" at Lowell and that Hogan will be remembered for it.
"To Dr. Hogan, development only mattered if it was done in a socially acceptable, environmentally friendly and economically sound fashion," Wooding said. "Those ideals are imbedded in this campus today and it's because of him."
UML board of trustees Chairman James Karam said the school will appoint an interim replacement for Hogan, and that it could take six to nine months to appoint a permanent chancellor.