College board selects new president Former dean at Catonsville is trustees' choice

First woman to hold job

Experience was deciding factor in board's decision

March 04, 1998|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

The president of State University of New York at Delhi was named president of the 5,081-student Howard Community College yesterday, replacing Dwight A. Burrill, who resigned in September.

The Columbia institution's third president in its 28 years, Mary Ellen Duncan will be the school's first female leader. A former Catonsville Community College administrator, she is expected to assume the $120,000-a-year post July 1.

"We are excited," said David A. Rakes, who chairs the board of trustees and announced the appointment before about 200 students, faculty and administration officials at the Student Activities Center. "We are excited about embarking on the next chapter of the college. We're ready to move on."

Duncan was unavailable for comment yesterday because she was in Albany lobbying state legislators to increase funding for SUNY at Delhi -- a task that did not go unnoticed by a Howard trustee.

"She's still working hard to get her school what she can," marveled trustee Roger Caplan. "She's an unbelievable person."

Duncan has been president of the 1,800-student SUNY at Delhi since 1991. Before that, she was dean of planning and development at Catonsville Community College for four years, serving a one-year stint as interim president. She earned a doctorate in administration and curriculum development from the University of Connecticut.

Duncan edged Alex Johnson, provost and vice president at Cuyahoga Community College near Cleveland. The two candidates emerged from a pool of 70 during the five-month search for a president. Rakes said Duncan's advantage was her experience as president of SUNY.

"Several board members thought that Dr. Duncan was the better candidate, while others thought that Dr. Johnson was the one," Rakes said. "After we reviewed all the background information and interview materials we had, what came across is that Dr. Duncan is more experienced than Dr. Johnson. We felt that, given where the college is and the need to move on, that Dr. Duncan was the best choice."

Shaun Koenig, president of the Student Government Association, said he was impressed with Duncan's openness.

"When I talked to her, it seemed that she had some really good ideas and thoughts," said the second-year liberal arts major from Ellicott City. "But she was open to new ideas and trying new XTC things. I feel that she is a positive person and can help the college a lot."

Duncan will immediately face financial pressures. Although Howard is among the top 10 community colleges in size in the state and enjoys a solid reputation as a leader in technology, the school abandoned several capital projects -- including renovations to the physical education building and construction of a parking garage -- for the fiscal year beginning in July.

The college is also expected to impose a $2-a-credit tuition increase for county residents, making it the most expensive community college in the state.

Mary Rittling, vice president of academic affairs for SUNY at Delhi, said Duncan is committed to students.

"I think she's going to bring to the school a real focus that students are the most important people," Rittling said. "She is so dedicated to creating the best environment for the school, and you will hear that in her voice."

Duncan is expected to make a formal announcement to the Delhi campus later today -- a decision expected to elicit mixed emotions, Rittling said.

"It's like having children," she said. "You're always so happy for someone when she accomplishes something and moves away to continue that. And still, you can't help but reflect on your loss. We're all very proud of her."

Pub Date: 3/04/98

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