Sun Investigates

Former head of biotech institute poised for chief role at Maryland Higher Education Commission

Hogan tabs former UMBI president for key role on Maryland Higher Education Commission.

Jennie C. Hunter-Cevera has been tapped for service by three Maryland governors based on her expertise in science and higher education. Most recently, she was named acting secretary of the Maryland Higher Education Commission by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

Despite her many successes, as head of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, she wasn't able to give the institution a sustainable future.

Hunter-Cevera served as president of UMBI for 10 years before stepping down in 2009. Shortly after her departure, the University System of Maryland Board of Regents decided to disband the institute, and shifted management of its components to universities around the state.

UMBI, created in 1985, housed renowned scientists over the years, including AIDS researcher Robert Gallo.

But officials said the institute's volume of research and the economic impact did not meet expectations. It never became the focal point for a Maryland version of Silicon Valley, as some had hoped.

A panel found that the institute's research centers were too small and isolated to operate at peak efficiency. By shifting them to other universities, officials hoped to reduce administrative costs and increase collaboration among researchers in various fields.

Previously, Hunter-Cevera was a member of Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich's transition team and served on his Science, Technology, Engineering and Math committee. She also was Democratic Gov. Parris Glendening's technology representative on the Southern Governor's Association.

University System of Maryland Chancellor Brit Kirwan recalled working with Hunter-Cevera when she served as part of the leadership of the university system. "Her knowledge of higher education will be a great asset as we join forces again to advance opportunities for students and the impact of higher education on the state," Kirwan said.

Erin Montgomery, a spokeswoman for Hogan, said no timetable has been set for Hunter-Cevera's confirmation. The commission crafts policies for the state's colleges and universities.

Hunter-Cevera replaces acting Sectretary Catherine Shultz, who was appointed by Gov. Martin O'Malley last April.

Hunter-Cevera said that in her new role, "I plan to listen to what is working, what the needs and gaps are and how we can prepare Maryland for the future in respect to job growth, high tech and security."

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