C.D. "Dan" Mote will step down as president of the University of Maryland, College Park at the end of August after 12 years leading the state's flagship public university.
During Mote's tenure, the university increased its research funding 150 percent to $518 million last year, completed the two largest fundraising campaigns in its history and increased its applicant pool by 78 percent. Mote also oversaw a building boom that added the Comcast Center, a 130-acre research park, a new performing arts center, bioscience and engineering buildings and several other large academic halls. UMCP finished 18th in the most recent U.S. News and World Report rankings of public universities, up from 30th in 1998, the year Mote arrived.
Mote had spoken over the years of walking away quietly with the university on sound footing, and his departure did not come as a total surprise to system, faculty and student leaders.
"Twelve years is a long time, actually longer than I expected," Mote said Monday. "You always want to leave the party before it's over, and people seem to appreciate what we're doing. There's a feeling that the university is on a great track."
Mote, 73, plans to take a leave of absence and then return to the university as an engineering professor. The university has not formed a search committee to seek his replacement but will move in that direction this week, said spokesman Millree Williams. Mote said he expects his successor to be in place when he steps down Aug. 31.
Mote came to College Park from the University of California, Berkeley, where he spent most of his academic career, earning a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D., serving on the engineering faculty and rising to vice chancellor. He is a published expert on the biomechanics of snow skiing, among other subjects.
He remembered arriving without knowing anyone in the Maryland university system and with little sense of the state's politics. The job seemed appealing because of the state's wealth and proximity to Washington, the nation's leading public policy center. But Mote was surprised to find a university held in middling esteem.
"We had to create an expectation of greatness for the campus community and beyond," he said. "That was the goal, because the place really wasn't there in 1998."
Mote has served the fourth-longest tenure of any president in the 156-year history of UMCP and by many measures, the university has gained the stature he hoped for.
"Over the past 12 years, Dan Mote has led the University of Maryland to achieve the excellence and stature that it enjoys today as one of the leading public research universities in the nation and throughout the world," Joseph Gildenhorn, chairman of the university's board of trustees, and Alma Gildenhorn, co-chair of the university's $1 million Great Expectations campaign, said in a joint statement. "We have enjoyed working with him during that time and greatly admire his leadership and vision."
Mote's last year has not been easy, with state-ordered cuts slashing almost $50 million from the university's budget and causing unrest among students and faculty. Some student leaders have criticized Mote for staying behind the scenes too much during budget controversies.
But student body president Steve Glickman said Mote has always been honest about the budget and diligent in sending e-mails to keep students informed about cuts.
"It's hard for students to build relationships with the president of a university this size, but those who did may be a little upset about him leaving, because we really did like him," Glickman said. "He was very open and honest in our relationship, always willing to tell it like it is."
Mote had lunch with any student who asked and set up the President's Promise, a guarantee that every student would have access to an out-of-class program such as independent research, travel abroad or internships.
"The university is 100 percent better than when he came," Glickman said, noting the rise in national rankings.
Faculty members appreciated Mote for his approachability, said Frank Alt, a longtime business professor and the university's representative on the statewide Faculty Advisory Council.
"We knew it was coming," Alt said of Mote's departure. "Am I disappointed? Yes, because he was the right man for the job. He was very good at relating to people. Here was a person who had to deal with things at a very broad level but who also didn't hesitate to look at the details."
For example, he said, Mote personally reviewed decisions on whether to offer tenure to faculty members. "He knew how important that is to a university," Alt said.
Asked his most fun College Park memories, Mote recalled establishing the Maryland Incentive Awards recruiting program for Baltimore and Prince George's County students, cutting down the nets when the men's basketball team won the national championship in 2002 and getting the U.S. Naval Academy back on the football schedule.
He said that in the near future, the university will achieve a major expansion of East Campus, attract new business to its research park and expand the system's biotechnology research center at Shady Grove.
"I think it can become one of the truly great public research universities in the country," he said.