Trout of the Eastern Shore

October 05, 1990

Welcome to Charles H. Trout, the 24th president of Washington College, Maryland's institution of higher education, in Chestertown. Washington may be 209 years old and going strong, but like every other American college, it faces the daunting prospects of a shrinking pool of prospective freshmen and hard times for prospective donors. Mr. Trout will get his fins wet in the travails of academe, if not the Chester River, very swiftly.

The small college, of which Washington is exemplary, was never more important to American life than when large research universities are looking inward, troubled and insecure. Small is beautiful, and often the model that large institutions try to emulate as educators seek answers to these pivotal questions: What is education? What is the best way to teach American young people? How should colleges and universities adapt to fulfill the needs of the approaching 21st century?

The tough act that President Trout follows is Douglass Cater, who came from the worlds of journalism, government and foundations to give Washington College greater recognition and outside support as a base on which to rebuild the physical campus of the Eastern Shore school. Mr. Trout comes as an educator previously connected to three of the best small schools: Amherst College (undergraduate); Mount Holyoke College (chairman of the history department); and Colgate University (professor, dean and provost). The challenge facing him is intellectual growth.

As a scholar, Mr. Trout's field is the social history of the American city in the 20th century. His specialty is Boston in the 1930s, but he could do worse in retooling than look at Baltimore in the 1990s. That is, when affairs at Washington College are so smooth that he has nothing more urgent to do.

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