Maravene Loeschke, a former student, faculty member, and administrator at Towson University, was formally inaugurated Friday afternoon as the university's 13th president before an audience of visiting dignitaries, colleagues and students.
"I know of no greater honor in life than to be given the opportunity to return and give back to the institution that has given me everything I ever needed to carry out my life's mission," Loeschke said. "I am forever in Towson's debt for my liberal arts education and theater major, but ceremonies such as these are not about any single individual… This is not my inauguration. This is our inauguration."
A member of the university's class of 1969, Loeschke climbed the ladder at Towson and was dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications when she left in 2002 for the position of provost at Wilkes University and later, president of Mansfield University.
During her remarks, Loeschke highlighted eight points in the university's strategic plan she said will turn Towson into "one of the major institutions on the national roll call for academic transformation and excellence in higher education" by the school's 150th anniversary in 2016.
The first point, in line with Towson's current role as a supplier of one-fourth of Maryland's teachers, is innovation in teacher preparation and leadership.
"Towson's long-standing reputation in teacher education primes us to lead the national response," she said. "Within a few years, Towson will be recognized as one of the primary models of best practice in teacher preparation and school leadership in this country."
Additionally, Loeschke said the school would reinforce its dedication to workforce development in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and establish a minor in leadership to enhance the amount of leadership education already provided.
"Leadership is about service to the creation of positive change, and at Towson we ask the students all the time, 'How is this world going to be better because of you?' " Loeschke said. " 'How are you going to use this education that less than 1% of the world gets to have to make change as a health care professional, a scientist, an artist, or a teacher?' "
Loeschke went on to detail the plan to expand the school's experiential learning and internships, continue to grow the arts and communications programs on the national and international stages, reinforce the campus' commitment to diversity, and educate the mind and body.
Lastly, Loeschke said the division of economic and community outreach would be restructured to create a department of innovate and applied research to provide new opportunities for student and faculty research.
Before her half-hour long speech, Loeschke was welcomed by representatives of the university's stakeholder groups, including Sen. Benjamin Cardin, Maryland Board of Regents Chair James Shea, TU Board of Visitors Chair David Nevins, Alumni Association President Lance Johnson, and Student Government Association President Brandy Hall.
Loeschke also made it a point to thank those who had helped her achieve her latest, greatest post, including the seven women who have served as her administrative assistants and her husband, Dick Gillespie, whom she met as a student at Towson.
"I would not be standing here today, I would not be teaching, I would not be in higher education administration without the love, mentorship and support of Dick Gillespie, my husband for 31 years," Loeschke said.
During a special musical interlude, Loeschke and Gillespie's former student Shannon Wollman, a renowned musical theater performer, sang "Wind Beneath My Wings" as a show of gratitude for Gillespie's support.
While addressing the students, Loeschke urged them to take up an issue larger than themselves and follow their dreams, wherever they may take them. An actress by trade, Loeschke said she started practicing her Oscar acceptance speech with a gold shampoo bottle in hand when she was still in elementary school.
"Little did I know that the speech I would be giving would be as university president," she said. "Ten, 20, 50 years from now, someone is going to win the Nobel Prize. Someone is going to cure AIDS. Someone is going to bring peace to the Middle East, and someone is going to start a new business in Towson. There is no reason why that cannot be you."