Derailed at Frostburg

December 23, 1990

Some Western Maryland residents are perplexed about Herb F. Reinhard Jr.'s resignation as president at Frostburg State University, effective Jan. 20. Dr. Reinhard compiled an impressive record in 4 1/2 -years, after all. Student registrations climbed 33 percent to 5,000. More money is being spent on classroom materials than ever before. Why resign?

The reason: Dr. Reinhard evolved from an educator into a regional personality. He thought the flattery he received was real power. His ship sprang a leak after he diverted a $10,000 estate gift earmarked for scholarships to his own discretionary fund. Some of the money was donated indiscreetly to help politicians or to support their favorite projects -- a move that might have violated federal tax laws. Gov. William Donald Schaefer's campaign received a $100 donation. Another $400 contribution went to a charity associated with Del. Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, who is a local political power.

Dr. Reinhard's eagerness to rally support for Frostburg State led to the misdirection of foundation funds to these men of influence. An internal audit has cleared the college president of any wrongdoing, but his handling of the $10,000 gift to Frostburg may cause future donors to think twice before making similar bequests.

Dr. Reinhard's wheeler-dealer instincts may have provided him with important friends in high places, but it cost him dearly. A faculty Senate meeting was scheduled to discuss Dr. Reinhard's indiscretion, and possibly vote on demanding his resignation. He beat them to the punch.

Still, Dr. Reinhard achieved much at Frostburg State. His ability to operate on a level with other Western Maryland leaders gave impetus to the school's success, which now includes post-graduate studies and seminars in economics that have helped the rural region.

A partnership now exists between the university, with all its academic resources, and the communities in Garrett and Allegheny counties. Dr. Reinhard opened the way for that, but he should have held tightly to his academic robes without adapting to the ways of professional politicians.

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