Mount St. Mary's College ushers in new president

November 06, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

EMMITSBURG -- The man who multiplied Georgetown University's endowment fund nearly twenty-fold over 24 years formally became the 23rd president of Mount St. Mary's College yesterday.

George R. Houston Jr. received the symbols of his office during inauguration ceremonies in Knott Arena, part of an athletic complex built in a field where the 186-year-old college's dairy herd once pastured.

His agenda for the afternoon, and that of other speakers, as well, focused on small, independent colleges' needs for the immediate future -- money and students.

"We must give new corporations, foundations, individuals an opportunity to invest in us . . . How good we are today is how good they will be tomorrow, for we are teaching the citizens of tomorrow," he said.

He also talked of emphasizing Catholic teachings and said that in conversations with the college's alumni, he consistently hears "preach, teach, serve."

"My hope for The Mount is that when we celebrate our bicentennial in a few short years, people will continue to 'N recognize us as a house that has faithfully preached the gospel, diligently and lovingly taught our students and -- through our students, faculty, administrators, staff and alumni -- served society," Mr. Houston said.

Mount St. Mary's, tucked into the side of a mountain on the edge of Emmitsburg, is the nation's oldest independent Catholic college. It was founded in 1808 by the Rev. John DuBois, who had fled the terror of the French Revolution.

Mr. Houston, a certified public accountant by training, yesterday became the fourth new president inaugurated by a Maryland college or university in the past three months. The others were the Rev. Harold E. Ridley, Loyola College, Sept. 30; Judy J. Mohraz, Goucher College, Oct. 22; David J. Ramsay, University of Maryland at Baltimore on Friday.

The Mount, as its faculty, student and alumni refer to it, isn't facing any enrollment or financial problems not common to small independent colleges, college spokesman Frank A. Buhrman said after the ceremonies. The emphasis on raising funds and attracting students in the inauguration speeches was typical of any similar institution in the 1990s, he said.

"These are challenges all colleges, particularly all private colleges, face in the '90s," Mr. Buhrman said. "How do we serve [minority and low-income students] who need us but don't have $20,000 a year?"

Mr. Buhrman said enrollment is up about 5 percent at the college this school year, to about 1,300 full-time undergraduate students, 155 seminary students and about 300 part-time students in other graduate programs.

The Mount's endowment is about $20 million.

The new president succeeds the Rev. James N. Loughran, who stepped down May 31 as interim president. Father Loughran was appointed to head the college after former president Robert J. Wickenheiser resigned last year.

Mr. Houston had been managing director of Georgetown University's endowment fund for two years before coming to the Mount St. Mary's campus in June. A 1961 graduate of Georgetown, he became the university's treasurer in 1970, vice president for financial affairs in 1974 and senior vice president in 1990. He is credited with playing a major role in the growth of the school's endowment fund from $19 million in 1970 to $370 million this year.

"He's what we need now," said Sister Ann Miriam Gallagher, R.S.M., a professor of church history in her 16th year at The Mount. She said Mr. Houston's commitment to strengthening the school's Catholic identity, academic programs and financial base, "came out in the many interviews we had with him last spring."

Mr. Wickenheiser's last year at The Mount was marked by controversy, including criticism for emphasizing graduate and business programs rather than traditional liberal arts. The displacement of a popular dean led to student protests, and the community chorused criticism after Mr. Wickenheiser suggested that longtime basketball coach Jim Phelan should retire.

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