Western Maryland selects its new name

But college won't reveal change until May 10

April 24, 2002|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

After months of speculation, Western Maryland College has a new name -- one college leaders hope will make the Westminster school sound more attractive to students and donors.

That new name, however, will remain a mystery until May 10, college officials said yesterday.

The board of trustees voted unanimously to change the name Saturday morning, but college leaders have asked that no one reveal the name before May 10, the last day of classes.

College officials want alumni, faculty and students to receive the news simultaneously -- and they will, at an 8:30 p.m. ceremony at Memorial Plaza on campus.

"I join the Board of Trustees in believing that those who know the college best and care about it the most -- alumni, students, parents, faculty, administrators, staff and friends -- should be the first to hear the news," Joan Develin Coley, Western Maryland president, wrote in an e-mail to the college community yesterday morning.

The majority of the 37 voting trustees could not be reached for comment yesterday and those who were reached declined to reveal the new name.

Alumni, parents, faculty and students reached yesterday said they either didn't know the new name or wouldn't reveal it.

The trustees voted to initiate the name change in October and announced their intentions in January, saying the name was a hindrance in the college's efforts to become a first-rate liberal arts school.

They and Coley said they no longer wanted prospective students to associate the college with the far western part of Maryland instead of with Westminster, a 45-minute drive from Baltimore.

The name also caused prospective students to assume the private college was a public institution, college leaders said.

The change has stirred opposition from Western Maryland alumni, parents and friends.

Within weeks of the January announcement, more than 800 had signed an online petition protesting the process, and others attended discussion sessions with college leaders in early March to register their disapproval.

Critics did not react well to news of the decision.

"I'm very disappointed in the failure of the board of trustees and the president to consider additional information that we have provided to them -- documentation from alumni that they will terminate their financial support if the name changes and other legal points that we have raised with them," said Sherod B. Heckle, a 1984 graduate and spokeswoman for the Coalition to Preserve the Name of Western Maryland College.

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