A new president at Goucher

March 07, 1994

Judy Jolley Mohraz, appointed president of Goucher College, has a resume that would light up any search committee. A historian who specializes in women's studies, American intellectual history and education, she's also headed academic affairs, admissions, financial aid and fund-raising at Southern Methodist University, where she started as an assistant professor 20 years ago. Even as a busy administrator, she regularly takes time to teach undergraduates, a gesture that should endear her to students at Goucher as it moves toward its 110th year.

Dr. Mohraz will need all of these skills and more, not because Goucher is sinking, but because it has survived the storms battering all liberal arts colleges the past few years and now needs strengthening -- and calm seas -- to sail safely into the new century.

In retrospect, Goucher's decision to accept men in 1986 was an economic life-saver, but it had a major disadvantage: Coeducation removed the one thing that had distinguished Goucher from most other small liberal arts schools in the upper-middle range of quality. Among Dr. Mohraz's challenges will be to find a marketing niche for the school. Can it survive as a national college with national name recognition, or must it shift its emphasis to the region? If it does the latter, it will face a new set of competitors in the perpetual struggle among colleges to maintain enrollment.

During the rough times, Goucher kept true to its motto, "Hold fast that which is good." Under President Rhoda Dorsey, it did not abandon its central liberal arts mission to make quick bucks with professional and technical courses.

But tuition, room and board at the school is now $21,762, and Goucher has been forced to pour an alarming portion of its budget into student aid. It needs more of what higher educators call "full-pays" -- those who can pay the full bill -- and Dr. Mohraz will be challenged to attract them.

She'll have to become an expert fund-raiser. Most private college presidents spend 50 percent or more of their time hitting up alumni, corporations and rich people. Perhaps Dr. Mohraz won't have time to teach. But if the ninth president gets discouraged, she can think of the second, John Franklin Goucher, who headed the school for 18 years, never took a dime in salary -- and never steered it clear of debt.

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