Robert L. Woodbury, 71: Former chancellor of UMaine System

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FALMOUTH — Robert Louis Woodbury, 71, died at his Falmouth home on Sept. 12 after battling lymphoma.

A leader in higher education and public service, his life was fully and passionately lived.

“Bob was a visionary leader of the University and its impact on the State of Maine,” said Gov. John Baldacci in a written statement. “He was a good and valued person who respected others and he was deeply committed to Maine communities, giving a lifetime of service. My sympathies go out to Bob’s family.”

The son of Glen P. Woodbury and Barbara Carr Woodbury, he graduated from Belmont Hill School in 1956, Amherst College in 1960, and earned a doctorate in American studies from Yale University in 1966.

He began his career as a professor at the California Institute of Technology. In 1979, he assumed the role of president of the University of Southern Maine.

He led USM after the merger of the Portland and Gorham schools, and helped establish the Edmund Muskie Institute of Public Affairs. From 1986 to 1993, he served as chancellor of the University of Maine System.

University of Maine System Chancellor Richard L. Pattenaude said in an issued statement, “Bob led the University System through some of its most challenging times as well as through some of its most significant accomplishments lifting it up to new levels of enrollment, accessibility, and quality. In that service, he became one of Maine’s most respected individuals.”

He ran for governor in 1994, served as interim chancellor in 1995 and then as director of the John W. McCormack Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Massachusetts Boston from 1996 to 1999.

His public service extended far beyond his formal jobs. Notably, he served as chairman of the board of the Council on International Educational Exchange, the American University in Bulgaria, the New England Board of Higher Education, the Maine Public Broadcasting System and the Maine Community Foundation.

He also served on the boards of Maine Medical Center, Eastern Maine Medical Center, Maine Development Foundation, Maine Humanities Council, Maine Maritime Museum and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

Amherst College named him trustee emeritus and he received honorary degrees from Amherst, Bowdoin College, Maine Maritime Academy and Westfield State College.

He will be remembered as a consummate optimist whose interest, passion, humor, humility, curiosity and breadth of knowledge made him an engaging presence.

U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe and former Governor John R. McKernan, Jr. issued the following statement: “Bob was a truly remarkable and passionate individual with a wonderful sense of humor who fulfilled a life with love and devotion – loving his family first, while devoting so much of his time to public service.” 

His wife and family were a source of pride, and he treasured family times. He was fortunate to have all of his children and their families living nearby throughout his retirement. He spent considerable time with his grandchildren and wrote a series of eight plays for his grandchildren to perform.

Surviving are his wife of 50 years, Anne (Pelletreau) Woodbury; three sons, Dick and his wife Debbie of Yarmouth, Mark and his wife Dana of Falmouth, and Jack and his wife Karen of Yarmouth; eight grandchildren, Erin, Sam, Ben, David, Matthew, Nina, Miles and Tessa; and two brothers, Jack and his wife Janet, of Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J., and Ron and his wife Melissa, of Pendleton, Ore.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 17 at the First Parish Church, 9 Cleaveland St., Brunswick.

Memorial gifts may be made to any campus of the University of Maine System, c/o UMS Office of Finance and Treasurer, 16 Central St., Bangor, ME 04401.

Arrangements are by Brackett Funeral Home, 29 Federal St., Brunswick.

Memorial condolences can be expressed at

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