An attorney once called the "political pope of Baltimore" will chair a search committee to find the next chancellor of the University System of Maryland, officials announced Tuesday.

Rick O. Berndt, a managing partner of Gallagher Evelius and Jones LLP, a Baltimore law firm, will chair the 10-member search committee. Half of the search committee members are current or former members of the USM Board of Regents, including Berndt, a former regent.

Berndt has been known as an influential behind-the-scenes adviser to a variety of Maryland congressmen, mayors and other figures throughout the decades. He backed Martin O'Malley's long-shot bid for mayor in 1999, and helped influence the rebuilding of the Inner Harbor in the 1970s and the more recent Harbor East development. Del. Howard P. Rawlings, the father of Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, nicknamed him "the political pope of Baltimore" for his ability to identify winning political candidates.

Chancellor William E. Kirwan, 76, announced last month he would retire as soon as a successor is found, saying the time had come to scale down a 50-year career in higher education. Kirwan had overseen the state university system, which includes 11 of Maryland's public universities, since 2002.

The sole student on the search committee will be Samim Manizade, the student appointee to the Board of Regents who is in a physics and engineering program run jointly by Salisbury University and the University of Maryland, College Park. Committee members with ties to Baltimore include Frank M. Reid III, a USM regent and senior pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore; Marcia Cephus, director of alumni and donor relations at Coppin State University; and Louise Michaux Gonzales, a USM regent and partner and co-founder of Baltimore law firm Hylton and Gonzales.

Other members include Norman R. Augustine, a USM regent and retired chair and CEO of Lockheed Martin; James Gates, a distinguished physics professor at UM; Clifford M. Kendall, chairman of VSE Corp., a member of the USM Foundation Board and the former chairman of the Board of Regents; Molly Corbett Broad, the president of the American Council on Education; and Dennis R. Wraase, incoming chair of the USM Foundation and retired chairman and CEO of Pepco Holdings Inc.

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