College name needs a change

The Education Beat

Geography: Western Maryland College is not in Western Maryland, but alumni are fond of the name.

January 23, 2002|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

ON HEARING that Western Maryland College is paying an Illinois marketing firm $200,000 to come up with a new name, my first thought was: I could do it just as well for $100,000. And Education Beat readers could do it for nothing but the pleasure.

The Western Maryland name, derived from the long-defunct railroad that once passed through Westminster, has been a liability for three decades. The main problem is that the school, 30 miles from Baltimore, isn't in Western Maryland.

And then, the school isn't public, as its geographical name implies. (See University of Maryland Eastern Shore.)

Robert Chambers, who was WMC president for 16 years, vowed privately to change the name when I first talked to him in 1984. But many alumni, perhaps a majority, don't want anything to change, particularly the name on that framed diploma in the den.

Chambers did a lot of good things for WMC. He raised $41 million in a hugely successful fund-raising campaign that ended on New Year's Eve in 1999. The campaign might not have been that successful had there been a name-changing brouhaha on the campus in the late 1990s.

So Chambers left the name-changing job to his successor, Joan Develin Coley, a reading specialist who ought to know the importance of words.

Some play on "Westminster" would be preferable and appropriate. WMC's campus on the western outskirts of the Carroll County town seems to have been designed by central casting; it feels like a Westminster. Trouble is, there are six other colleges and universities worldwide with "Westminster" in their titles.

Kevin Dayhoff, Westminster mayor and part-time Western Maryland student, had an idea. He said the school could keep the initials WMC if it changed its name to Westminster's Magnificent College.

College on the Hill, another suggestion, has a certain ring to it and describes WMC's location exactly.

Green Terror College, after the school's sports mascot, seems a bit extreme - and inappropriate after Sept. 11.

Chambers always hoped a super-wealthy alum would come forward with a deal: My name on the school in return for a couple of hundred million.

That never happened, though it has happened elsewhere and could at WMC. Glassboro State College in New Jersey got $100 million 10 years ago from industrialist Henry Rowan and his wife, Betty. The school was quickly named Rowan University.

We'll pass along any nominations to those looking for a new name at WMC. And if one of our suggestions is the name chosen, we'll bill them.

Time for Maryland to approve charter schools

Del. John R. Leopold, the Pasadena Republican, is nothing if not persistent. For the fourth year running, he's put in a bill giving legitimacy to charter schools - public schools that are operated independently. Leopold has a long way to go before he matches the unsuccessful two-decade fight to get rid of the state's patronage-ridden legislative scholarship program. But he's on the right track.

Surely it's time to give a chance to these alternatives to the public school monopoly. Thirty-seven states have charter legislation, which qualifies them for a share of $200 million in federal funding for charter start-ups.

This year, there's even more reason to qualify these schools. The No Child Left Behind Act, signed by President Bush Jan. 8, allows children in chronically low-performing schools to transfer to other public and charter schools as early as this fall.

Some of the states' charter laws give carte blanche to these schools. The proposed legislation in Maryland is more focused. Any school can become a charter school, but the legislation targets schools that most need help.

There are already several "quasi-charters" in Maryland, schools that have charter characteristics but lack the name. The Edison Schools, the Stadium School and Midtown Academy in Baltimore prove what can be done when a school is freed from the public system straitjacket.

Silver Spring school dominates in science

Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring is in a class by itself. It dominates the Intel Corp.'s annual science talent search, sending 17 semifinalists. That's more than any other school in the nation.

What struck me as I looked down the list were names like Radhika Usha Char of Olney, who studied the radiolytic and photolytic degradation of hexachlorobenzene as a model for polychlorinated biphenyls, and Robert Kang Zing Jin of Bethesda, whose project involved the automated detection of grain boundaries in microstructure images.

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