Mohraz's first four years prove to be Goucher's good fortune President raises funds, enrollment and morale

November 22, 1998|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

When television lights cast an eerie glow on the darkened campus last month, Goucher College President Judy Jolley Mohraz found herself once again in the midst of controversy.

Students were staging a late-night rally to protest anti-gay graffiti that had been scrawled for weeks on doors around the Towson campus. The scene was reminiscent of another heated meeting last year when students denounced a basketball coach's racial comment.

As she had in the past, Mohraz moved swiftly, decrying the incidents and urging campus unity. Her response, which helped quiet the campus, was typical of the conciliatory style that has won the hearts -- and loosened the purse strings -- of many of Goucher's staff members and alumni since she arrived four years ago from Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Mohraz's energetic leadership recently pushed Goucher to a record-setting $48 million capital campaign, more than three times as much as in any other campaign.

She has overseen a multimillion-dollar construction drive and devised a strategic plan for the college. She also has helped increase enrollment from 1,130 in 1994 to 1,484 this fall.

"Goucher is on a roll now," says Suzanne Fineman-Cohen, Class of 1956. "I feel positive about Judy. Part of it is her openness of personality and her ability to engage people one on one or in a group."

Mohraz, 55, says her mission is clear: to aggressively market the small liberal arts college.

"Having spent 20 years in Dallas, where nothing is subtle or downplayed, it was necessary to raise the visibility of the college in the public's eye so people realize how fine Goucher is," she says. "We are really on a journey. It's awfully important for me to facilitate that journey."

Wooing the alumni

Her presidency at Goucher often is called a turning point for the former women's college, which was founded in 1885 and became co-educational 10 years ago. When she arrived, she set out to woo the college's 16,900 alumni, especially female graduates who were seething over the decision to accept men.

Mohraz logged hours of flying to meet far-flung alumni. She also began holding intimate dinner parties -- sometimes serving her signature pumpkin soup -- at the contemporary stone president's house where she lives on campus.

Liz Chuday, Class of 1978, was one of the first guests.

"I was still angry about the co-ed business, as many of my classmates were. We felt we chose this school because of its philosophy," says the Homeland resident who is president of Chuday Communications.

"Because of this dinner, I certainly have cooled off a lot. I think Judy will mend fences."

In February 1997, Mohraz again was building bridges.

Angry students held a forum to protest a basketball coach's racially insensitive remark after he referred to the team as "my plantation." Mohraz encouraged a schoolwide examination of how students and faculty members deal with race.

"It was a blessing in disguise," says LaJerne Terry Cornish, Class of 1983, who earned her master's degree from Goucher in 1994. "It opened up conversation and caused people to talk to each other."

Mohraz is credited with pushing the college into the national spotlight by inviting such notable speakers as Hillary Rodham Clinton; Jody Williams, the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize laureate; and Arun Gandhi, grandson of India's late leader Mohandas K. Gandhi.

Last year, she earned widespread recognition as co-chairwoman a panel investigating unethical and criminal incidents at the Naval Academy.

"She brought energy and a willingness to contribute her time and herself," says co-chairman Stansfield Turner, a former CIA director and academy graduate. "She came with a brilliant mind and the ability to look at the problems objectively."

Passion for education

Former SMU colleagues agree.

"She's just what you see," says R. Hal Williams, a history professor who worked closely with Mohraz at SMU. "She's nice. She's smart. She has a passion for education."

For most of her 20 years at SMU, Mohraz taught history. She became an associate provost the last four years of her tenure. She was content, she says, to remain at the university, where her husband of 25 years, Bijan Mohraz, is a tenured professor of mechanical engineering.

Then she received a surprise phone call from a search company about the Goucher opening.

"Judy had a strong academic background and accomplishments the academic field and higher education," says Barbara Fritze, vice president of enrollment management at Goucher, who served on the presidential search committee. "It was all these things she brought to the table that set her apart [from the other applicants]."

Second female president

Mohraz was selected as Goucher's ninth president and the second woman to assume the top role. She succeeded Rhoda Dorsey, who was president for 21 years before retiring.

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