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University of Baltimore president announces retirement

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Robert L. Bogomolny, who led efforts to revive the University of Baltimore's four-year undergraduate program and to transform the campus and surrounding neighborhood, announced Tuesday that he will step down as president after this academic year.

Bogomolny, 75, said he plans to begin his retirement with a year of traveling, then return to teach in the law school.

William E. Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, said he would appoint a committee by mid-October to conduct a national search for a successor to be in place by the time the president departs next summer.

"He has left quite a legacy that will make a difference for years to come, not just in the university but in the city as well," said Kirwan, who added that when money was tight, Bogomolny was creative and entrepreneurial to accomplish his goals.

Bogomolny said in an interview that when he joined the university in 2002, he found an institution with a strong faculty that was engaged and committed to making sure that students succeeded. But he said he also found many things that needed fixing.

He believed there were too few faculty members, so he increased the number by one-third. He thought there ought to be a place for students to gather on campus, so he got an airy, glass student center built. He raised the endowment from $26.9 million to $40 million as of June.

"I liked the things that were challenges," he said. "There were hundreds."

The improvements he sought ranged from the simple, such as a difficult-to-use email system, to the more complex, such as aging facilities.

Bogomolny has not always gotten along with the faculty, though, and after he fired the dean of the law school in 2011, a dispute between the president and the dean erupted publicly.

Bogomolny played down those events Tuesday, saying: "There is always some tension about leading through change."

The deans of the other three UB schools — business, public affairs, and arts and sciences — have left in the past two years. Most recently, Darlene Brannigan Smith, dean of the Merrick School of Business since 2008, resigned in July. Neither the school nor the dean gave a reason at the time.

Faculty Senate President Daniel A. Gerlowski said there were groups of faculty that disagreed with Bogomolny's decisions and others that agreed. "We need to learn from our history and move forward," he said.

Gerlowski said he hopes faculty will be represented on the committee that searches for the next president.

Bogomolny may be best remembered for the transformation of the city's Midtown area just below Pennsylvania Station. During his tenure, the college developed a master plan that brought $275 million in capital investment, nearly half of it private investment, to the area.

The school expanded its footprint by 50 percent, building the John and Frances Angelos Law Center, which opened in the spring; a privately owned and financed 323-bed housing project that enables UB students to live on campus; and a Barnes and Noble campus bookstore. In addition, the school renovated the Loyola Federal Savings and Loan Building to hold the Liberal Arts and Policy building.

"He has been transformational. The culture here is one of innovation and change," said Laura Bryan, dean of the college of arts and sciences, who added that faculty and administrators feel free to try innovative ideas. Hired a year ago, Bryan said she has enjoyed working with Bogomolny, particularly because of his commitment to the liberal arts, which she said he views as the heart of the university.

Not all deans have been supportive of the president, and during his tenure tensions have been laid bare in unusually public ways. In 2011, the popular law school dean, Phillip Closius, was forced to resign.

A chorus of students and alumni portrayed Closius as a dynamic leader. Closius wrote a public letter in which he said he and the president had a disagreement about the increase in tuition for in-state law students, which had risen 70 percent in seven years. The money, he said, was going in part to fund other segments of the university.

His resignation came the day after the university received an accreditation report from the American Bar Association that raised questions about the administration's rationale for siphoning law school proceeds to other UB schools.

When Bogomolny took over, UB was mostly known as a commuter school for graduate students. While UB maintains graduate schools in business, law and public policy as well as a Master of Fine Arts program, Bogomolny restarted a four-year undergraduate program that had been given up in 1975.

The university now has about 1,000 students who live within about a five-minute walk. Commuters can park in a new 1,200-space garage, which means more faculty and students walk on the urban campus, which stretches nearly to the Maryland Institute College of Art in Bolton Hill.

Bogomolny said he is proud that the university caters to students searching for a pragmatic approach to their education. About half the students are members of minorities, and many are returning to school after being in the workforce or are attending part time to get a graduate degree. The average age of students is 29.

Students had a mixed reaction to Bogomolny's tenure. Caroline Norman, a third-year law student, said the president has little effect on the day-to-day lives of students. She said she thinks tuition is too high, particularly compared with the higher-ranked University of Maryland Law School. She said too much of her tuition is going to subsidize other programs at UB, but that her education has prepared her well to practice law.

Ron Williams, who is working toward a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing and the publishing arts, said he believes Bogomolny "has a vision of where the university needs to go." He said he is pleased that many of his professors are practicing in the area in which they teach and that the "stuff you learn you can apply immediately to real-world situations."

Bogomolny said he will leave an institution whose administrative and academic leadership is the best it has been since he came to the university, but he wishes that UB received more money from the state.

He said he is looking forward to traveling during the year he has off, particularly to enjoy music and theater in the Berkshires in Massachusetts.

liz.bowie@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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