Despite Berkeley's interest, Kirwan will stay at UM California university considered him for post

March 05, 1997|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN STAFF

William E. Kirwan, the affable mathematician who has won widespread praise for improving the University of Maryland College Park as its president since 1989, ruled himself out yesterday as a candidate for chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley.

Although he said he had not sought the job, Kirwan met in Oakland last week with University of California regents and other members of a search committee who were interviewing a handful of finalists contending to succeed Berkeley Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien.

Kirwan, 58, said he met "in good faith" with the California search panel but decided in recent days to stay at the College Park campus, which has been his home for 33 years. "I'm not being cute with words," Kirwan said. "I have no plans to leave the University of Maryland."

Campus sources said Kirwan rearranged his schedule on short notice to fly to the Bay Area. The invitation for last week's interview as a finalist came late in a process that began six months ago to find a new leader for Berkeley.

After a Sun reporter's inquiry yesterday, Kirwan sent out a universitywide e-mail stating: "Although I am flattered to have been asked to meet with the search committee, I will not be leaving Maryland for California."

Late yesterday afternoon, Kirwan also told Donald N. Langenberg, his boss as chancellor of the 11-campus University of Maryland System, that he would be staying.

Richard Atkinson, president of the University of California System, is set to announce his selections tomorrow for new chancellors at Berkeley and the University of California at Los Angeles, where Chancellor Charles Young is stepping down. A spokesman relayed Atkinson's refusal to comment.

Published reports in California newspapers suggest that the other finalists for the Berkeley post are Carol Crist, a scholar of Victorian literature who is Berkeley's provost; Robert Berdahl, president of the University of Texas at Austin; and Berkeley economist Laura D'Andrea Tyson, former chief economics adviser to President Clinton.

Kirwan, who has been a professor, department chairman, provost and president at the University of Maryland College Park, is often regarded by associates as someone likely to finish his career at College Park.

"He's shown a lot of commitment," said Raymond Johnson, a professor and former chairman of mathematics at the school. "He's certainly done everything he can to improve the University of Maryland."

Kirwan has been praised for his leadership as provost and president in calming the campus through scarring times, including the aftermath of Maryland basketball standout Len Bias' cocaine-induced death in 1986 and devastating cutbacks in promised state funds in the early 1990s.

"Brit has totally transformed this campus," said Irv Goldstein, dean of the college of behavioral and social sciences. "From my perspective, having him here is really important for the future of this university."

Commonly called "Brit," a play on his middle name, English, Kirwan has fought to improve academic life on campus. He promoted a new honors college at College Park that has persuaded more Marylanders to stay in-state for their schooling; he has pushed for additional funds for academic facilities, even as legislators focus on a new Cole Field House to showcase the university's athletic prowess; and he has promoted the university's research endeavors to government and corporate backers.

Pub Date: 3/05/97

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