Low-key start for McDaniel College

Ceremony today to mark the renaming of WMC

`Big things have gone smoothly'

July 01, 2002|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

Western Maryland College is dead. Long live McDaniel College, as the Carroll County school is to be known starting today.

Tangible evidence of the big change at the Westminster school will surface throughout the summer and into the next academic year as the college handles the volume of materials - from signage to team uniforms to key chains - bearing its old name. But as McDaniel College becomes the official name, one of the first steps to establish a new identity will be visible starting this morning.

That's when members of the college's Name Implementation Committee will fan out in downtown Westminster. They will favor merchants with freshly manufactured vessels designed to carry the fuel of commerce and academia.

In other words, they will pass out coffee mugs with the new name and logo.

"It's an attractive mug. It shows up well," said Harry Sirinakis, owner of Harry's Main Street Grille, just blocks from campus. He has received about 100 mugs and plans to use them at his restaurant for the next week as well as when the college holds events.

The new name can be found on college stationery, business cards, postcards announcing the change, catalog covers and Web site addresses. (The Web site can be found at www.mcdaniel.edu).

The formal changing of the name today will be marked by a breakfast for Carroll County business and community leaders at the 19th-century president's home on campus. At 9 a.m., the Old Main bell will toll in Memorial Plaza to mark the occasion.

It's a low-key rollout - at least compared with the suspense that accompanied the announcement of the name.

For years, officials and faculty at WMC had lobbied for a name change to reduce confusion about the school's geographic location - it's not in Western Maryland - and to counter a tendency to assume that the private liberal arts institution is a state school. The process that led to the new name began officially in January, when a 32-member committee started sifting through 418 possible names.

After months of secrecy, the 136-year-old college unveiled its new name in May at a campus ceremony that drew a crowd of at least 1,000 alumni, students, faculty and neighbors. The new name is in honor of William R. McDaniel, an 1880 graduate of the school who during a span of six decades wore nearly every hat the college had to offer, including professor, treasurer, vice president, acting president and trustee. The choice has drawn a mixed response.

With today set as the date of the formal name change, college employees in many departments clamored for direction on how to handle the transition. The Implementation Committee was formed. Its 19 members - representing nine departments, including student affairs, the faculty, deaf education and intercollegiate athletics - would tackle the thorny logistics of changing the name.

"This process builds common ground," said Joyce E. Muller, associate vice president of the college's communications and marketing department. "We'd like to have everyone understand the big picture. That way you have people who buy in and become a stakeholder."

One member of the committee learned that his biggest worry, changing the football media guide, didn't need to be rushed because already printed promotional items were given wrappers that added information on the name.

"It put my priorities in perspective," said Steve E. Peed, the college's director of sports information.

He has been kept busy editing the old name out of his media guides and news releases. It was less trouble to arrange for students who arrive on campus next month to find athletic teams sporting McDaniel Green Terror uniforms.

"The nitty gritty things are the biggest pains while the big things have gone smoothly," he said.

Peed, who graduated from the college last year, is in an especially difficult position. Most of his friends on the football team are vocal in their dislike of the name. They rib him for having to promote the name to the public and athletic associations.

"They're real hard-core, and they didn't want to see it changed," Peed said. "They're good-humored about it, but they think I've sold out."

He said he wasn't enthusiastic about the name at first, but while working on the committee he came around to the name.

"Whatever grief I felt about it, being on the Implementation Committee was a decent healing process for me," Peed said. "The new name is definitely going to be a positive benefit for school."

He said it will be a relief "to not have to explain what it's not," echoing the concern of many at the school that people outside the state do not realize the college is only 45 minutes from Baltimore.

Although "Western Maryland College" has met its official demise, the name will in some ways live on.

A corner of the college bookstore will be devoted to WMC goods and clothing.

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