St. Mary's College president to step down by 2010

January 08, 2009|By The Washington Post

St. Mary's College of Maryland President Jane Margaret "Maggie" O'Brien, who is widely credited with developing and promoting the highly regarded public honors college, announced yesterday that she would step down by 2010.

In her nearly 13 years as president, O'Brien intensified the school's curriculum and elevated its recognition nationwide, landing the college a spot on several magazine lists of the nation's top public colleges.

When O'Brien, 55, became president in 1996, the college was on the cusp of becoming better known for academics than partying. Under her leadership, the college raised millions of dollars for construction, scholarships, professorships, lecture series, and arts, athletic and community programs, such as free summer concerts. The college's international study abroad programs expanded and flourished.

"She was extremely successful in working with state legislators and four governors ... to orchestrate the funding and construction of needed facilities on campus," said former Maryland state senator J. Frank Raley Jr., a trustee emeritus of the college.

Since O'Brien started, the college has grown from 1,600 students to 2,000, and the percent of full-time students who live on campus rose from 60 percent to 85 percent.

O'Brien's presidency has not been without controversy. In 1998, five gunmen took over a bus carrying 16 St. Mary's students and teachers on a college-sponsored trip in Guatemala. The men robbed the passengers and raped five women during a two-hour ordeal.

In 2002, the college paid three of the victims a total of $195,000 to avoid a trial.

O'Brien will continue to work with the college's Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Oxford, England, while fundraising for St. Mary's and teaching there.

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