Goucher installs No. 10

Sanford Ungar: New president personifies role of public intellectual, as college skies darken.

October 26, 2001

THE WORLD is likely to take greater notice of Towson's Goucher College now that Sanford J. Ungar is formally its 10th president, as he has been in fact since July. That would seem to have been the point.

Mr. Ungar is a lifelong journalist, broadcaster, op-ed writer and no shrinking violet, who believes in the role of the public intellectual. He is likely to be heard from on matters far beyond Goucher fund-raising, but on that, too.

Opened in 1888 as the Woman's College of Baltimore by the Methodist Conference after the Johns Hopkins University refused to admit women as undergraduates, Goucher (renamed for its founding president and his wife) has had a checkered history of eminence, decline and revival as a coeducational institution.

The situation liberal arts colleges face is not what was envisioned in June 2000, when the ninth president, Judy Jolley Mohraz, abruptly resigned after a successful six years to head a large foundation in Arizona.

The capital campaign exceeded its target, Goucher's academic reputation was rising, and the stock market had enriched college endowments and the individuals and foundations that contribute to them.

The number and measurable quality of students were going up.

The challenge is not even what it seemed in March, when Mr. Ungar was selected after a thorough search.

The stock market decline has seen most endowments and generosity shrink.

The demand of students for places remains high.

But the economic downturn, compounded by national trauma, is turning some good candidates away from expensive private education to state institutions.

Mr. Ungar and his peers at comparable institutions will be facing challenges that go with the job and with cycles of business and history, just not the ones they may have anticipated when signing on.

A 13-year dean of the School of Communications at American University in Washington, before his two years as director of the Voice of America, a foreign affairs writer and editor, Mr. Ungar should be up to the unexpected.

And he should not let it deter him from what seems to be a special mission of bringing the world to the beautiful wooded Towson campus and Goucher to the world.

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