It has been nearly 10 years since the death of Dr. T. Albert Farmer shocked the University of Maryland at Baltimore campus. Dr. Farmer, in his short tenure, provided the UM professional schools with badly needed leadership, elevated the campus' stature as a Baltimore institution and ended many of the internal feuds that long divided UMAB into competing camps. Without Dr. Farmer to steady the academic boat, UMAB has been buffeted by turbulence.
Most recently, it was the dean of the medical school, Dr. Donald Wilson, versus the temporary president of the campus, Dr. Errol Reese. The two clashed in a pay dispute in which Dr. Wilson ended up with a raise that Dr. Reese had never authorized. It was not the first time Dr. Reese rubbed deans of the
professional schools the wrong way. Thus, it came as no surprise when he announced his resignation, then stepped aside this month.
Picking a first-rate successor is imperative. This campus needs a true leader who can command the loyalty of a disparate group of academics and professionals, many of whom are engaged in medical pursuits. UMAB lacks a president who is viewed as an equal in the University of Maryland hierarchy.
Bringing unity to this unlikely campus will be a challenge. It certainly is not an attractive location for a graduate-level institution. No one attends UMAB for its beauty, and no one runs around the concrete campus shouting, "Rah, rah for old UMAB." Those who enroll at UMAB do so for the superior graduate degrees they can gain at the nursing, law, dentistry, pharmacy, medical and social work schools.
Yet this campus is important to the university system and to the Baltimore region. It has a budget of $313 million and produces most of this state's doctors, nurses, social workers, lawyers and pharmacists. It has integral links with University Hospital, the Veterans Administration hospital, the Shock Trauma Center and the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Those on campus make major contributions in the Baltimore worlds of research, education, medicine and culture.
But no one since Al Farmer has been able to bring a sense of mission and purpose to the entire campus. That's what the UM regents should set as a goal for the next UMAB president. Given the institution's continuing troubles over the past 10 years, the regents should not delay this decision. The sooner a new president is installed and interim president John W. Ryan concludes his temporary assignment, the quicker the long-overdue healing process can begin for those on campus.