Towson U provost to be interim president

Former leader resigned amid pressure last month

May 04, 2002|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

The state university system's Board of Regents has named Towson University's provost to be the school's interim president until the regents find a permanent replacement for Mark L. Perkins, who resigned last month under pressure for Towson's spending on its presidential mansion.

The provost, Dan Jones, has been acting as the university's president for three weeks while the regents have looked for a long-term interim leader. In a telephone conference Thursday night, the regents decided to retain Jones until they find a permanent president, which could take as long as a year.

"Dan Jones is extremely knowledgeable about Towson, he is well-regarded by his peers and he is someone we have great confidence in," regents Chairman Nathan A. Chapman Jr. said yesterday. "We thought unanimously that he was the person to do the job."

Other regents and Towson faculty said it was not clear until yesterday that the regents would settle on Jones. Also considered for the interim job, they said, were two Towson administrators and outside candidates, including Carolyn Manuszak, former Villa Julie College president, and Rhoda Dorsey, former Goucher College president.

Those supporting other candidates for the interim post argued that Jones, a former English professor who became provost last year, was not well-equipped for the task of rebuilding Towson's reputation with lawmakers and the public at large, as well as boosting the university's fund-raising, sources close to the selection said.

But faculty said a majority of their peers have been backing Jones, 64, in the belief that the 37-year Towson veteran can provide a calming hand for a campus rocked by Perkins' sudden ouster. Jones' supporters note the job of restoring Towson's reputation and increasing its endowment will mostly fall to the eventual permanent president, not the interim.

"This was the most positive possible step for the university," said English Professor Carl Behm, acting associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts. "There was no point in interrupting the continuity any further than it has been by having yet another person brought in on an interim basis."

Perkins resigned April 8, a month after The Sun reported that Towson officials acknowledged spending $600,000 to improve the school's new presidential mansion. Towson had received the regents' approval to buy the $850,000 house, in Baltimore's Guilford neighborhood, after telling them last summer that it needed minimal work.

A subsequent regents audit found that Towson had spent closer to $1 million on renovations. Towson officials have justified the spending as needed to ready the house for entertaining potential fund-raisers - one of the top mandates charged to Perkins when the regents hired him last year from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Chapman said yesterday that the regents will shortly appoint a search committee to help them select a permanent president. Under regents' rules, the search must take no longer than a year, but Chapman said he hopes it won't take that long.

"We're going to be sure [search committee members] understand we'd like them to move with due speed," he said.

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