Florestano, five-year Md. secretary of higher education, to retire July 1

`Tired' official wants to allow state time to find a quality replacement

April 28, 2000|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,SUN STAFF

Patricia S. Florestano, the state's secretary of higher education for the past five years, will retire on July 1, she announced yesterday.

"It's been a great job, but I'm tired, and I think they need some fresh blood," said Florestano, 64. "I planned to stay in the job for two years when I took it, and I made it five."

She said if she didn't leave now, she would feel obliged to stay until the end of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's term in 2003, because it would have been difficult to find a quality replacement for a job that could end in less than two years.

As secretary, Florestano heads the Maryland Higher Education Commission, the regulatory body of all post-secondary schools. The commission will choose three candidates to replace her, and Glendening will pick one of those.

"Pat Florestano has done an extraordinary job over the last five years," Glendening said. "I am particularly pleased that she remained as secretary for longer than she had originally planned."

Florestano defended MHEC when a 1998 commission looking at the state's governance of higher education wanted to remove many of its regulatory functions. In the legislation that came from that commission's recommendations, MHEC's powers were diminished, but it retained oversight of programs offered by the state's colleges and universities.

She said this year's legislative session had been good for higher education. "The legislature passed every bill we wanted passed, killed every one we wanted killed and gave us a great budget," she said. "It would have been hard to top that."

Florestano has known Glendening since 1968 when she was his student in political science at the University of Maryland, College Park.

"He was my adviser for my master's thesis and my Ph.D. thesis," she said. "I wouldn't have even gotten my Ph.D. if he hadn't offered me a graduate assistantship in 1970. My whole career would have been different if it hadn't been for him.

"I've been a teacher, an administrator, a lobbyist," she said. "This job pulled everything I had ever done together."

In his statement, Glendening described Florestano as "a close and dear personal friend of mine who has been one of my most trusted advisers, and I will continue to count on her for her expertise and her commitment to the people of Maryland."

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