Veteran journalist to lead Goucher

Ungar says creating `international place' will be a priority

March 18, 2001|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,SUN STAFF

A lifelong journalist who was once the host of public radio's "All Things Considered" was named the 10th president of Goucher College yesterday.

Sanford J. Ungar becomes the school's first male president since 1973, replacing Judy Jolley Mohraz, who left last year to head a foundation in Arizona. He will begin in July.

"I am delighted and elated," Ungar said. "I feel challenged and very privileged."

Now head of the Voice of America, the government's overseas broadcasting operation, Ungar, 55, comes to a college presidency from a career that includes five years as a writer at the Washington Post and 13 years as dean of the school of communication at American University.

Goucher officials are clearly hoping that Ungar's reputation and experience will bring national attention to the 1,200-student school in Towson, which spent most of its 116 years as a women's college, admitting men for the first time in 1986.

"He brings multiple strengths to the job," said Marilyn Warshawsky, chairwoman of Goucher's Board of Trustees, who headed the search committee. "He can help us become better known regionally and nationally, as well as internationally."

Ungar said it was clear that this was expected of the new president.

"Two things emerged during the search that attracted my attention," he said. "Goucher really wants to become a more international place, which is very much on my agenda.

"And the other big issue is to raise the profile of Goucher not only in the Baltimore-Washington area, but in the country and the world," he said. "That is something I look forward to working on."

Ungar's name is perhaps most familiar from his two-year stint in the early 1980s as co-host of National Public Radio's afternoon news program.

A graduate of Harvard University who holds a master's degree in history from the London School of Economics, Ungar wrote for the Washington Post and a variety of magazines before his time at NPR. He became dean at American University in 1986, leaving in 1999 to head the VOA.

"He is very forward-thinking, not just an administrator who pushes organizational boxes around, said Glenn Harnden, acting dean of the communication school at American University. "He definitely has a vision and a drive."

Marc Nathanson, chair of the board that oversees the VOA, described Ungar as "a very thoughtful person."

"He has done a very good job at the VOA," Nathanson said. "He has been involved in a lot of new initiatives and shown a lot of creativity."

"He brings an enthusiasm to a job that, combined with his charm, should make for a terrific college president," Nathanson said.

Ungar, the author of five books on subjects from the Pentagon Papers to Africa, does not have a doctorate, the terminal academic degree that was once seen as a prerequisite for a college president.

"One or two people may have asked the question about his lack of a Ph.D.," said Eric Singer, a member of Goucher's political science department who was on the presidential search committee.

"But upon closer inspection of his record of publications and of his public record as a thoughtful commentator on the social and political currents of our time, any questions were put to rest," Singer said.

Ungar and the other finalist for the job, Nancy J. Cable, the dean of admissions at Davidson College in North Carolina - who withdrew her candidacy before yesterday's vote by the Board of Trustees - each spent two days at Goucher earlier this month, meeting with various groups, from trustees to students, in a variety of forums.

"I think by the time [Ungar] left, I didn't come across a single faculty member who had doubts about his qualifications," Singer said.

Ungar said his visit left him equally impressed with Goucher.

"It struck me as a place where the intellectual life of the campus seemed to be terrific," he said of his meetings with faculty. "And I was quite impressed by the students who showed me that Goucher is a haven for individualism. There is not a Goucher student stereotype.

"And I felt that Goucher is a place that has a sense of humor," he said.

A native of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Ungar said he was familiar with Baltimore because his wife did postgraduate training in infectious diseases at the Johns Hopkins medical school in the early 1980s.

He plans to live in the president's house on the Goucher campus but will maintain his residence in Washington where his wife, Beth L. P. Ungar, practices internal medicine and their 17-year-old son, Philip, is a junior at Georgetown Day School. Their daughter, Lida, 20, is a junior at Williams College.

"I always thought of him as living about three different, very full lives," said Harnden, who met Ungar when he became dean at American University in 1986. "He is one of those people who seems to work a 56-hour day.

"He was a very effective dean. He maintained all these contacts in journalism. And he wrote a book, while he was dean, on immigration issues," he said. "Besides all that, he is a very devoted family man.

"He is amazing," Harnden said. "Goucher is very lucky. They have hired a very good man who will be an excellent president. There is no question in my mind."

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