The new president of the Towson Chamber of Commerce is a vice president of Towson University.
Debra Moriarty, TU's vice president of Student Affairs, was scheduled to be sworn in at the chamber's annual luncheon June 17.
Having a TU official as chamber president is a situation that former County Councilman Doug Riley couldn't have imagined when he took office in 1990, and launched a series of meetings to bridge the often prickly gap between "town and gown" created by the sometimes antagonistic relationship between long-term neighborhood residents and college students living among them.
Back then, "Towson University didn't seem to feel it was part of Towson," said Riley, himself a former chamber president who now serves on its board of directors.
Town and gown met thoughout his eight years in office.
"In fact," said Riley, " it was only after Councilman Wayne Skinner disbanded the committee that we returned to the same state of siege between the university and the neighborhoods that had preceded my election in 1990. Deb was appointed to calm things down during the second World War."
Things have gradually changed, he said.
The university has been trying to make Towson a college town and the business people see the students as a source of the profit they need to remain viable.
"In many ways, it's a logical relationship," he said. "It isn't as crazy as if Deb became president of the residential group," he said, referring to the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations.
Once the TU administration decided to close the gap, "Deb did a wonderful job of building relationships between the neighborhoods and the university," he said.
Moriarty, a college administrator for more than 30 years, said she hopes people will make the connection between the amount of commerce the university community can bring to a town to give it a vibrant business district and, conversely, how a town with a vibrant business district can play an important role in attracting students to the university.
They serve as real assets for each other, she said.
A member of the chamber's board of directors for five years, Moriarty credits executive director Nancy Hafford for making the chamber "a vibrant force for creating opportunities for the business community."
"It has been very exciting to be a small part of that," she said. "I'm hoping in this role I can continue the good that is being done to expand the chamber's potential."
Like the past presidents of the group, she has a full time job, she said. She will be working closely with and relying on Hafford, assistant executive director Pattie McLane and the chamber volunteers "to implement the vision."
Moriarty already had an established track record with the GTCCA, having previously chaired the University Relations Committee for several years.
"She did a good job working toward solutions for student problems in the neighborhood," said GTCCA vice president Paul Hartman, a past president of the Aigburth Manor Association. "She made the effort and she was easy to work with.
"I think this is a good thing."
Hafford agreed. "We have worked with Deb for more than five years and she has been very involved in making decisions that have guided our chamber," she said.
Outgoing president Dave Hinshaw was "marvelous and we are going to miss him," she said, but with TU moving into The Commons in the core of Towson, "this is a very good time for her to be president."
Other chamber officers elected and about to serve their one-year terms beginning Friday include Kaitlin Radebaugh, vice president; John Holman, secretary; and Mary Fran Stromyer, treasurer.