FSU's Reinhard pursues vision, but at a price

November 11, 1990|By Patricia Meisol | Patricia Meisol,Sun Staff Correspondent

FROSTBURG -- The president of Frostburg State University is a hard-driving, publicity-seeking administrator whose determination to achieve difficult goals has landed him in the center of controversy more than once during a career spanning more than 25 years.

From Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, where he is credited with presiding over important growth, to Morehead State University in Kentucky, where he was ousted in a battle with his bosses, Herb F. Reinhard Jr. has relied on boundless energy and boosterism to overcome obstacles and bring about change.

How far he was willing to go to achieve his goals was revealed over the last two weeks, when he was accused of using a discretionary account given him by the university's non-profit foundation to make political contributions and entertain lawmakers despite a warning that such actions could jeopardize the tax-exempt status of the campus fund-raising arm.

Faced with the ire of donors, questions from the Internal Revenue Service and a charge by state Sen. John N. Bambacus, R-Allegany-Garrett, that he has fostered an atmosphere of "fear and intimidation," the 60-year-old administrator has questioned his accusers' motives and called in university auditors to clear his name.

As the state prosecutor set up temporary headquarters at the state police barracks here, Dr. Reinhard maintained that he is the victim of some unknown force, unleashed at least in part by people who do not like how the outwardly tranquil campus in the mountains of Western Maryland has changed and grown since 1986.

"I still think we have done nothing wrong," Dr. Reinhard said, adding that none of the money in his discretionary account has been spent on himself. All of it, he said, was spent "in the best interests of Frostburg. To promote Frostburg State University. Everything."

Since coming to Frostburg in 1986, he is at once credited with putting the campus on the map and criticized for the way he has gone about it.

He runs a tight ship, demands and rewards loyalty from his vice presidents, and sends out newspaper clippings of his accomplishments.

He has been known to berate top officials in front of subordinates, criticize students who voice complaints at open meetings in dorms, and demand that employees arrive early at receptions to take guests' coats, according to interviews with former and present colleagues.

Above all, say those who worked with him, Dr. Reinhard likes to be at the center of attention, whether it is entertaining guests in a roped-off section of presidential bleachers at football games or taking the lead in an effort to bring airline service to Cumberland.

"Certainly he has a vision of what Frostburg should be, and he works very hard to get all of us to catch up to that vision," said Karen Holbrook, chair of the faculty and professor of computer science. She scoffed at the idea that Dr. Reinhard leads by fear and intimidation.

"I did not sense this atmosphere that Mr. Bambacus referred to," she said.

To carry out his vision, Dr. Reinhard's staff is often required to work long hours and attend evening events. In turn, the president gives them discretionary accounts and the use of a new car. Many of those who disagreed with him found new jobs.

Ronald Fautz, former FSU Foundation director and 17-year employee, recalled last week that he left Frostburg six months after Dr. Reinhard arrived, in part because of the president's demand for a discretionary account.

"This was one of the many things he insisted upon that encouraged me to seek new employment," said Mr. Fautz, vice president for institutional advancement at Robert Morris College Pittsburgh. "I maintained that the foundation was [already] responsive, within its available resources, to the documented needs that the college presented."

Mr. Fautz said that although Dr. Reinhard took over a "trouble-free college, one of his management styles was to criticize and tear down what he inherited. Nothing that was there was any good. Those of us who had built our careers there took issue with that. It was a strong institution, well-run financially, one of the best of the six state colleges," he said.

His aggressive style, Mr. Fautz and others agree, has allowed Dr. Reinhard to accomplish a great deal:

* When the president discovered that the university's band was using musical instruments borrowed from a local high school, he found $15,000 in the budget for new ones.

* When the old Board of State Colleges and Universities decided against mounting a campaign to elevate then-Frostburg State College to university status, Dr. Reinhard went around it to the Allegany County legislative delegation. Frostburg was the first of the state colleges to get university status, a name change that some say improved its standing with donors and the public.

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