Mote formally installed as president at UMCP

He vows to make school great research university

April 24, 1999|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,SUN STAFF

With the pomp peculiar to academic circumstance, C.D. "Dan" Mote Jr. was formally inaugurated as the 27th president of the University of Maryland, College Park yesterday.

Lance W. Billingsley, a UMCP alumnus and chairman of the Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland, officially named Mote president, presenting him with the chain and medallion that symbolizes the office as Gov. Parris N. Glendening and system Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg looked on.

The ceremony came eight months after Mote took over the job, a delay not unusual for such affairs, in part because they take so long to plan. The timing also gives the new president a chance to learn the new turf before presenting a speech outlining a vision for the future.

Yesterday's ceremony began with a panel discussing the future of the research university. Participants included Mote, Langenberg, Johns Hopkins University President William R. Brody and Judith Rodin, president of the University of Pennsylvania. Festivities continue today with an open house, featuring a variety of events across the campus.

In his inaugural address, Mote told the crowd that filled Memorial Chapel -- many dressed in multihued academic regalia -- that he studied the history of UMCP before he came east from the University of California at Berkeley.

"I learned that the campus was founded as a small agricultural college about 140 years ago," Mote said. "Its founder, Charles Benedict Calvert, declared in 1859, `We will have the finest institution in the world,' certainly a bold statement at any time and certainly then.

"And I also learned that these words, which sparkle across the century, have, on occasion, been neglected in the intervening years."

Mote said his welcome to campus has been friendly. "But I also encountered more uncertainty and frustration than I expected," he said.

"As many of you know, I have not been shy about proclaiming our intention to become one of the great research universities in this country," he said. "I believe that is why I was recruited to the presidency."

Mote said two of the biggest challenges are assuring access to those facing financial hardship and insuring a tolerant campus.

"Every act of intolerance against a student lessens us. Every student who has to leave for lack of funds weakens us," he said.

Mote, an engineer, also said the rise of the university cannot be on the back of technological achievements alone.

"Study of the humanities often evolves more slowly than in the sciences. Many of the questions themselves are everlasting," he said. "As a consequence, they will remain central to the content of great universities when all current technologies have gone the way of the slide rule and the vacuum tube."

Perhaps with an eye to the donors that he successfully courted at Berkeley and has begun to tap at UMCP, Mote noted that the university is one of the most enduring human institutions.

"Those of us looking for immortality take note -- count on a university to preserve your name, not a country," he said. "Rhodesia is a fading memory, even for us who are old enough to remember it at all, but Rhodes scholarships at Oxford live on and on."

Mote said he is confident that UMCP will be known as one of the world's top universities.

"The next president of the University of Maryland will stand on this stage and be able to tell Charles Benedict Calvert that his proclamation has finally come to pass," he said. "We will have the finest institution in the world and it has taken its rightful place in the long line of universities that have transfigured society."

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