Urgo named St. Mary's College president

Hamilton College professor will take post July 1

February 23, 2010|By Childs Walker | childs.walker@baltsun.com

Joseph R. Urgo, a professor of literature and administrator at Hamilton College in upstate New York, has been chosen the next president of St. Mary's College of Maryland, the Southern Maryland school announced.

Urgo, 54, will replace Larry Vote, who has served as acting president of St. Mary's since Maggie O'Brien left the job last summer.

"As we got to know Dr. Urgo, we found he understood St. Mary's College, our sense of place, and shared our deep respect for the mission of a public liberal arts institution," said Molly Mahoney, a member of the board of trustees who chaired the presidential search committee.

She added that she was impressed by Urgo's commitment to environmental sustainability, which she described as a passion of many students and faculty members at the school in St. Mary's County.

Urgo, who will start as president July 1, echoed her thoughts, saying, "I am drawn to SMCM because of its liberal arts tradition, its reputation for rigorous undergraduate research and its strong sense of community."

St. Mary's, which has about 2,000 students, is a rare public institution in the largely private realm of liberal arts colleges. Urgo said he was attracted by the combination.

"That was one of the strongest things for me, the mission to bring a liberal arts education to the largest possible audience," he said. "I really think of it as a model for other states."

At Hamilton, ranked 21st among the nation's liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report in 2009, Urgo has been chief academic officer.

Before he went to Hamilton in 2006, Urgo served six years as chairman of the English department at the University of Mississippi. He previously spent 11 years on the faculty at Bryant College (now Bryant University) in Rhode Island.

In his research, Urgo focuses on the works of William Faulkner and Willa Cather. He has written five books.

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