Washington College leader steps down

August 27, 1994|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,Sun Staff Writer

The president of Washington College resigned yesterday during a two-hour, closed meeting with trustees of the Eastern Shore liberal arts school.

The unexpected move by President Charles Trout comes as the college appears within reach of balanced budgets for the first time in several years. As recently as fiscal year 1992, the school notched a $771,000 deficit on expenditures of $20.3 million, rTC according to the latest edition of the Washington College fact book.

"It's funny how historians think in terms of a decade," said Dr. Trout, who has served as president for five years. "To think about the end of the decade, as I look at that, I just think I don't want to do that."

But Dr. Trout would not comment on whether he made the decision to step down or if he was prompted by trustee or faculty discontent.

A respected academic who colleagues said brought a touch of the Ivy League to the Chestertown campus, Dr. Trout submitted his resignation to trustees during the afternoon session in Annapolis, officials said. Several senior scholars contacted at the campus said they were surprised by the news, and only learned of it from a reporter's inquiries.

"He didn't come as a businessman or simply as a fund-raiser," said Nathan Smith, a history professor.

Dr. Trout emphasized improving the quality of the research and writing by the college's faculty, which alienated some faculty who thought the college should retain its traditional emphasis on teaching rather than publication, Dr. Smith said.

Dr. Trout, a 58-year-old social historian, had taught at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and Colgate University in New York, where he served as provost and dean of faculty.

In an interview, Dr. Trout pointed to his record of boosting the level of minorities in the student body, erasing annual deficits and shoring up academic standards for students and faculty, and said he was glad to be passing on control of a vibrant campus. He will formally continue in office until the end of next spring, but he will take a semester's sabbatical in December. He said he is not sure of his future plans.

He said his years as provost at Colgate and president at Washington College added up to a career's worth of academic administration. "It's been 15 years in the hot seat, and it's time for change," Dr. Trout said during a telephone interview last night, as he took a break from a dinner welcoming new faculty members to campus.

After the meeting, John Moag, trustee board secretary, said that Dr. Trout made the decision on his own.

"This was clearly of Chuck's own volition," said Mr. Moag, who praised Dr. Trout's leadership on campus. "He probably has done more than any recent college president to increase academic standards here."

Mr. Moag and Washington College professors interviewed cited a decline in college-age students for the recent drop in enrollment at the school, which is charging $20,594 this year in tuition and fees. In 1990, 920 students attended Washington; last year, 830 did. But officials said that the enrollment is projected to rise to 890 in the fall semester.

During Dr. Trout's time on campus, the school added programs in Chesapeake regional studies, neuroscience, and gender studies; minority student enrollment tripled from 5 percent to 15 percent; and the trustees adopted a long-range plan that would add more than 250 students in the next decade. The private school's endowment also grew from $19 million to an estimated $27 million, college officials said.

"We're really back on track," Dr. Trout said. "That being the case, it's a good time for me to leave."

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