New president for WMC

Westminster college: Private liberal arts school looks within for leadership in 21st century.

April 16, 2001

WESTERN Maryland College gets a new leader with a familiar face this month, as Joan Develin Coley is inaugurated as the eighth president of the private liberal arts school in Westminster.

Dr. Coley has been de facto president of the 134-year-old college since December 1999 when Robert H. Chambers ended his 16-year presidency with a sabbatical and then resigned. Arriving in 1973 as an education professor, Dr. Coley is the first WMC president to rise through the academic ranks, and the first female president.

These are promising times for Western Maryland, with a steadily rising enrollment and a string of major donations that have expanded and renovated the College Hill campus and bolstered its endowment. Last year, the school celebrated completion of a record-breaking $41 million fund-raising campaign.

The college still awards more master's degrees than bachelor's, with its respected professional training in general education and education of the deaf. Western Maryland enrolls about 1,600 undergraduates and 3,000 graduate students.

Like many small private colleges in the 1990s, WMC felt the squeeze of soaring costs that outstripped reasonable tuition increases and strained modest reserves. But the institution weathered these challenges, then boosted its enrollment and its endowment.

The college's strength remains its teaching. Dr. Coley and other administrators all teach classes. Its active cultural calendar, including the popular Common Ground art and music programs, enriches the Carroll County community.

Expanding public awareness of WMC's exceptional qualities is the goal of the college's new president. The campus gets extra publicity each summer as training camp of the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.

Western Maryland's name is misleading, deriving not from geography but from the former railway company whose president was a generous benefactor and organizer of the institution. That's tradition won't change. Neither will its commitment to educational excellence in the new millennium under a new leader.

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