Kirwan gets warm welcome in Maryland

March 27, 2002|By Alec MacGillis and David Nitkin | Alec MacGillis and David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

William E. Kirwan, the next chancellor of the state university system, received a returning hero's welcome yesterday - including the gift of Final Four tickets from Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who briefly coveted the $375,000-a-year job.

At his first public appearance after accepting the position Monday, Kirwan expressed confidence that he could lead the 13- institution system fairly, despite his close ties to its College Park flagship, where he was president for 10 years.

Kirwan, 63, said his career has been defined by his ability not to be swayed by personal biases. As chairman of the College Park math department, he made sure not to favor his division, he said, and as university president from 1989 to 1998, he took care not to favor the math department.

Kirwan, who will continue as president of Ohio State University until summer, will assume the chancellorship Aug. 1.

At an introduction at the university system's Adelphi headquarters yesterday, officials showered him with praise.

Board of Regents Chairman Nathan A. Chapman Jr. said the state had snared "far and away the best candidate" to replace Donald N. Langenberg, who will retire next month. He mentioned that Kirwan's naming was "the best-kept secret in the state the past few weeks" - undermining Kirwan's claim that he learned of the offer only last week and didn't decide to leave Ohio until the weekend.

It was an upbeat conclusion for a search dogged by internal dissension and political intrigue, much of it generated by Glendening's interest in the job. Glendening dropped his bid in December after being criticized for seeking a job that would be filled by regents he appointed.

Welcoming Kirwan at the State House yesterday, Glendening noted that Kirwan aided his political career by allowing him to keep his tenured professorship at College Park and teach part time after he was elected Prince George's County executive.

Kirwan thanked Glendening for his support for higher education, which increased after Kirwan left for Ohio State in 1998 complaining of Maryland's lack of funds.

"Maryland leads America in ... the investment you have given to higher education," Kirwan said. "It is going to pay enormous dividends for many years. I am going to be a wonderful steward."

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