Chancellor Kirwan's challenge

Excellence: Having avoided a setback, Maryland can now achieve higher stature in higher education.

March 27, 2002

FOR PERSISTING in its search for the right man to run Maryland's university system, the Board of Regents must be praised.

Each member was appointed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a one-time professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, who proclaimed his own interest in returning to academe as chancellor, a $375,000 post complete with car and mansion.

Much opposition developed, and Mr. Glendening withdrew. He persisted as a shadow candidate, but the opposition among the regents grew. They began to recruit William E. "Brit" Kirwan, now president of Ohio State University. Before that, he had been the University of Maryland, College Park president and a man of immense popularity there.

A case could have been made for the governor. But the perception of a captive board bowing to their boss' wishes couldn't have been avoided - or explained to the quality faculty and top students an aspiring school must attract.

In the end, the governor wrote gracious letters praising Mr. Kirwan. All's well that ends well.

Now for the real work. As a man of immense personal skills, Mr. Kirwan has instant credibility among many constituencies. He had to make tough decisions at College Park and survived them with respect. Then he pushed Ohio State to new heights.

With so much good feeling surrounding his return, Brit Kirwan could become the most successful figure in the history of higher education in Maryland since the boisterous Harry Clifton "Curley" Byrd built much of the College Park campus after World War II.

Chancellor Kirwan will operate without the bluster, but his gently persuasive style would seem to be a perfect fit for this era.

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