Not much remains in Towson from when Maravene Loeschke, Towson University's new president, was growing up in the area. The Penn Hotel, where her father would bring her to lunch and warn that she'd "better be a grown-up in here or we're not coming back," now exists only in memories. Hultzer's, the department store that featured a lunchroom that felt like Buckingham Palace, is gone as well.
But luckily for Loeschke, a few fixtures remain. On their first day back in Towson, Loeschke's husband insisted they dine somewhere a true local could long for — the Towson Diner.
"I'm a Towson girl," Loeschke said. "I'd like to know who loves Towson more than I do. I don't know what that looks like.
"The fact that I get to come back, not only to a university but to a community that I know and love, is a fabulous way to start a presidency," she said. "If I had become president in North Dakota, I'd have to find out why I love it. We just skip that, because I already care so much about this community. To come back and see it thriving, it's so exciting, not only because this is where it started, but because this university gave me everything.
"If I've done anything effective in my career, it's because I went here."
The town and university have fingerprints all over Loeschke's life.
She grew up in Parkville, and moved to Lutherville while in high school. Her mother worked at Towson Elementary School. She worshipped at Trinity Episcopal Church on Allegheny Avenue.
And she said that as a theater student, professor and eventually dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication at Towson University, she spent more time at that diner than most people ever do.
The university has changed in the decade since Loeschke left for Pennsylvania to become provost at Wilkes University, then president of Mansfield University. She was struck by how much larger everything seems, but tucked inside those big new buildings are some faces from her Towson University past.
James Anthony, who has taught music at Towson since 1971 and has known Loeschke for decades, was "bowled over" when she was named the school's new president. He remembered his former colleague as a "wonderful administrator."
"They couldn't have picked a better person," he said.
Anthony recalled how Loeschke accompanied Mansfield's choir on a recent trip to perform at Towson.
"I could tell the students just adored her," Anthony said. "I think she will ingratiate herself with the students here as much as she can. I have high hopes for her."
Shohreh Kaynama, dean of the College of Business and Economics, took a theater class with Loeschke in 1975 and paid the ultimate compliment for an educator.
"She's the kind of teacher that I still remember the lessons and the things that she taught us," Kaynama said. "I can't say enough things about her as a teacher and a mentor."
She, too, was delighted to learn of Loeschke's return, but said it was like she never left.
"All these years that she has been away from Towson University, she never cut her ties with us," she said. "She would come for different sporting events, she would come for various functions, and she kept her relationships with the community because she really cares about Towson."
Loeschke hopes to leave a similar impression with Towson's current crop of students.
She will join students from the Leadershape program on an upcoming retreat, and already seized an unlikely opportunity to make some early connections with the student body.