Coppin names next leader

Wisconsin educator to arrive in March

`He understands the challenge'

Funding seen as crucial for faltering college

October 12, 2002|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

A University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee administrator was named yesterday to succeed Calvin W. Burnett as the next president of Coppin State College, and lead the renewal of the long-neglected West Baltimore campus.

Stanley F. Battle, the vice chancellor for student and multicultural affairs at the 25,000- student Milwaukee campus and a scholar in social policy, will arrive at the historically black school in March. Burnett, who has led the college for 32 years, will delay his retirement until then.

State university system regents, who selected Battle, said the 51-year-old administrator is well qualified for the challenge of succeeding Burnett and overseeing the rebuilding of the 3,000-student college on West North Avenue. They noted that Battle, a native of Springfield, Mass., has a long-standing interest in urban higher education - and in particular in the fortunes of black male students.

"We're very pleased," said regent Orlan M. Johnson, the board's liaison with the Coppin search committee. "We think he's up to the task, that he understands the challenge."

Battle, who has held his current post for two years, also held a distinguished professorship at the university and previously worked as a faculty member or administrator at Eastern Connecticut University and at the social work schools at the University of Connecticut, Boston University, and the University of Minnesota.

He will arrive at a critical time for the college, which opened about 100 years ago as a training school for African-American elementary school teachers. After developing a solid reputation as the educator of many of the city's teachers, police officers and government workers, the college has, during the past few decades, suffered from a severe shortage of state funding.

An independent panel found last year that Coppin had received $19 million in capital funding over the past 10 years, or $669 per student - compared with, on average, $16,144 per student at the state's other campuses.

The campus would need $300 million in capital funds over the next decade to catch up, the panel found. State officials welcomed the finding, but have expressed doubts about spending that much when budgets are constrained.

Yesterday, Battle said he had received serious pledges from Maryland regents and system Chancellor William E. Kirwan that they would do everything possible to boost funding for Coppin.

"You've got to accept people's word, and they had a commitment verbally and I trust them," he said.

Battle said he is confident Coppin can make strides regardless of how much money it receives. He said he has been thinking about ways that the college's students and faculty could "help ourselves."

"I was very impressed with the people I met on campus," he said. "We can find the buildings, but you've got to start with the people, and they're looking for change. They're really excited about it."

Burnett, who announced his retirement last year, said yesterday that he, too, is optimistic that Battle will receive the support he needs. He expressed particular confidence in Kirwan, who upon becoming chancellor in the summer listed Coppin's renewal as a priority.

"There is an emphasis on raising up Coppin to where it should be because of the problems of the past," Burnett said.

In recent years, system officials have explained Coppin's shortfall as partly the result of Burnett's failure to pursue funds aggressively - a claim he has disputed. Yesterday, Kirwan and regents praised Burnett for training other black college leaders, such as University of Maryland, Baltimore County President Freeman A. Hrabowski III.

"He set the stage of Coppin to take the next step," said departing Chairman Nathan A. Chapman Jr.

Battle earned his bachelor's degree from Springfield College, his master's degree in public health and doctorate in social welfare policy from the University of Pittsburgh, and a second master's in social work from the University of Connecticut. His wife of 27 years is a lawyer and assistant professor at UW-Milwaukee; their only daughter attends Mount Holyoke College.

Nancy L. Zimpher, the chancellor of UW-Milwaukee, spoke highly yesterday of Battle's administrative skills. Brought to Milwaukee because of his reputation as a scholar - he has co-authored 10 books and more than 60 articles - Battle has excelled as a vice chancellor, leading new efforts to prepare Milwaukee youth for college.

Zimpher predicted that Battle would fare far better than the last Wisconsin administrator to take over a Maryland college, Mark L. Perkins, who resigned under pressure from Towson University in April.

"Not only is [Battle] genuinely excited about this, he knows what he's coming into and he's already thinking creatively about strategy," she said.

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