And then there were two …

The University of Massachusetts is one step closer to choosing its next president, as a presidential search committee has named two finalists: UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan and Harvard business professor John Quelch.

Quelch has international chops as a former dean at a prestigious business school in China, while Meehan is a former congressman and has earned widespread praise for revitalizing UMass Lowell.

Robert Manning, who chairs the search committee, says finding a president who’s politically savvy is critical for the future of UMass.

"We get 20 percent of our funding from the state legislature, so that person has to be adept in coordinating and building consensus on Beacon Hill,” Manning said.

The UMass Board of Trustees will interview both Meehan and Quelch tomorrow, before selecting one of them to succeed Robert Caret, who's stepping down to become chancellor of the University of Maryland System. UMass wants the next president in place by July 1.

Meehan is also in the running for the presidency of Suffolk University, and some experts have suggested the search committee is fast-tracking the process to accommodate him.

Secretary of Education Jim Peyser dismisses that notion.

"We got to this point, anyway, without feeling like we were missing any bets," Peyser said. "I think we ended up with the two best candidates."