Mount St. Mary's picks president

March 09, 1994|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Western Maryland Bureau of The Sun

EMMITSBURG -- Mount St. Mary's College ended a six-month nationwide search yesterday, naming George R. Houston Jr., a longtime administrator at Georgetown University, as its 23rd president.

Mr. Houston's fund raising at Georgetown has been significant, and he will bring more than administrative abilities to the 186-year-old Mount St. Mary's College. He is leaving as manager of the endowment fund at the university in Washington, where he has worked for 28 years.

Mr. Houston is credited with playing a major role in Georgetown's endowment growth from $19 million to $342 million during his tenure. In the past, he also was the school's treasurer, vice president for financial affairs and senior vice president.

He is a certified public accountant who has taught throughout his administrative career and intends to continue teaching at Mount St. Mary's College. His presidency will begin on July 1.

"The Mount has found the leader who will take it forward into the 21st century," said Richard C. Ridgway, chair of the college board. "George Houston embodies the strengths that make the Mount what it is: a caring attitude toward students and dedication to the highest level of teaching; a firm belief in the liberal arts and career preparation; strong personal faith; and a devotion to Catholicism."

Mr. Houston, 54, will succeed the interim president, the Rev. James N. Loughran, who will step down May 31. Father Loughran was appointed to head the college after Robert J. Wickenheiser resigned last year.

"Father Loughran did what an interim president is supposed to do, and that is to make the way smoother for a new full-time president," said Frank Buhrman, a college spokesman. "He has succeeded."

Dr. Wickenheiser left his post after 16 years. His final year was marked by controversy, including criticism for emphasizing graduate and business programs rather than traditional liberal arts offerings. Students protested the displacement of a popular dean and the community was in an uproar at Dr. Wickenheiser's suggestion in a letter that it might be time for Mount St. Mary's longtime basketball coach, Jim Phelan, to retire.

Mr. Houston embraced Mount St. Mary's liberal arts curriculum and said he told a search committee that if the college was looking for someone to overhaul the curriculum, he wasn't the one.

"This characteristic of Mount St. Mary's as a student-centered college is one of the main reasons I expressed interest in the presidency," he said. "One of the things I really enjoy is teaching. I am first and foremost a teacher."

Mr. Houston said fund raising will be a priority at Mount St. Mary's, too. He said most universities need money to enhance operating and capital budgets. The college's endowment is about $20 million, Mr. Buhrman said.

The Washington, D.C., native has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Georgetown, and a master's in business administration from George Washington University, also in Washington.

Mount St. Mary's has 1,750 undergraduate, graduate and seminary students.

The college would not say how much Mr. Houston will be paid.

The other finalists were: Dennis C. Golden, vice president for student affairs at the University of Louisville, Ky.; the Rev. Leonard F. Callahan, director of Catholic education for the diocese of Dallas; and Dr. Katherine E. Keough, associate dean TTC the college of social sciences at Xavier University, Cincinnati.

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