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University of Massachusetts trustees unanimously approved U.S. Representative Martin Meehan to become chancellor of the system's Lowell campus Wednesday.
The Democrat, who built a national reputation as a campaign finance reformer while also being a prolific fund-raiser, expects to leave Congress in July to take the post leading his alma mater. His departure sets up a furious race for a rare open seat in the House.
University of Massachusetts president Jack Wilson informed Meehan on Tuesday that he was the top pick for the job that is expected to have total yearly compensation between $200,000 and $300,000, a boost from Meehan's current salary of $165,000.
''He is a leader, an innovator, and has a demonstrated passion for higher education in general and U.Mass.-Lowell in particular,'' Wilson said.
Meehan beat out two academics for the hometown post on the strength of his local knowledge and support, the promise of an energetic pursuit of state and federal funding, and the belief he could help translate intellectual theory into tangible economic products.
"We can build a first-rate cutting-edge university that can drive the economic and social development in the region that I love and where I grew up for the next 50 to 100 years,'' Meehan said.
Meehan, 50, carved a national profile by pushing campaign finance legislation, accusing the tobacco industry of collusion in promoting smoking, and pushing to repeal the military's current ''don't ask, don't tell'' policy on gay soldiers.
Gov. Deval Patrick said in a statement that Meehan has ''the vision and commitment to bring U.Mass.-Lowell to a new level.''
U.Mass.-Lowell is replacing William Hogan, who has retired. The other finalists were David C. Chang, chancellor of Polytechnic University in New York City, and Nabil A. Ibrahim, vice chancellor of academic affairs at Purdue University-Calumet. (AP)