Towson State University is no stranger to name changes. It's had four in 130 years.
But now it's ready for a new identity.
Hoke L. Smith, president of the university, would like to eliminate "state" from the name, calling it Towson University.
" 'State' in the minds of people -- especially with the private-school mentality of the East Coast -- means second rank," he said.
This week, Dr. Smith moved a step closer to his goal when the General Assembly backed a request for a report from the University of Maryland System by Dec. 1 that could open the door to name changes.
"It's a good way to create clarity and understanding of the schools," said John Lippincott, associate vice chancellor for advancement for the University of Maryland System.
The 11-campus system, which includes Towson State University, was created by the General Assembly in 1988 with the consolidation of the five University of Maryland campuses with the six campuses in the state college system. Many of the schools use University of Maryland in their names.
The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee is seeking a report from the University of Maryland System on the college names, saying that separate identities for the schools would reduce confusion for the public, strengthen alumni development and increase private support of member institutions.
At issue, though, is who may get to keep -- or use -- the University of Maryland name, Mr. Lippincott said. Although College Park is closely associated with it, the University of Maryland at Baltimore was the founding institution and the first to carry the name.
"It's been extensively debated," he said.
The request also paves the way for universities that don't have University of Maryland in their names to ask for changes. A university president may propose a different name for an institution, but it must be approved by the board of regents of the University of Maryland System and the state legislature before it becomes official.
Depending on the findings in the report, legislative action on name proposals could be taken as early as next year's General Assembly.
And while Dr. Smith says he is leaning toward calling his school Towson University, another suggestion has been made to name the school the University of Maryland at Towson.
"But that goes against the flow of what this is about," he said, puzzled.
Dr. Smith said he may start polling the Towson staff and students and other constituents this spring about a name change, realizing there could be some discussion. "TSU is a brand of identity," he acknowledged.
County Councilman Douglas B. Riley of Towson enthusiastically supports a name switch. "I would love it to be Towson University," he said. "I think it sounds like a world-class university."
For Towson State alumnus Lorraine Kronen, name changes have been part of the school's history. "It wouldn't make a difference to me," she said.
When she graduated in 1970, the school was called Towson State College. When her daughter, Angela Kronen, graduated last year, it had its current name.
History of name changes
The college was called State Normal School when it opened in 1866 in Baltimore. The campus moved to Towson in 1915 and became State Teachers College at Towson in 1935. In 1963, it became Towson State College; then, in 1976, Towson State University.
Many students on campus are not excited about a new name, 22-year-old junior Scott Appel said.
"It's much ado about nothing. There are more important things to talk about around campus, like student parking," he said.
Pub Date: 4/05/96