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President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, Jay A. Perman, has been named chancellor of the University System of Maryland. He will take over next summer.
President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, Jay A. Perman, has been named chancellor of the University System of Maryland. He will take over next summer. (Baltimore Sun photo by Barbara Haddock Taylor)

The University of Maryland Board of Regents has chosen a leader from inside to steady the sprawling state system of 12 public colleges and universities following a year of public criticism and turmoil.

Dr. Jay A. Perman, the president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, will take over next summer as chancellor of the University System of Maryland, replacing Robert L. Caret, who had decided not to seek another five-year contract.

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Perman, a pediatric gastroenterologist, became president of University of Maryland, Baltimore in 2010. UMB includes graduate schools in health, law and social services in downtown Baltimore.

Writing to the UMB community on Thursday evening, Perman said he found it “difficult to express just how deeply I’ll miss UMB, how much I’ll miss coming to work here every day. And yet I’m excited for this extraordinary opportunity to lead the System and fulfill what I consider one of my life’s obligations: ensuring that every person who wants a college education is able to access it.”

In his letter, Perman wrote to his staff that his obligation came from his own journey attending college on scholarships and not knowing whether he could afford medical school, which was “probably half of what my widowed mother earned in a year as a seamstress doing piece work.” He attended medical school through the help of a benefactor, he wrote.

He said the opportunity to lead the system was a way of opening doors to others.

“Jay has served as chair of the council presidents. He represents the best of the USM presidents. Most important, we trust him,” said Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in an interview. “He leads with great authenticity and he cares about the citizens of Maryland.”

A native of Chicago, Perman worked at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine from 1984 to 1996, before moving to the University of Maryland medical school to head its pediatrics department. He also served as dean and vice president for clinical affairs at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine before returning to Maryland in 2010 to take the president’s job.

Since taking the job at UMB, he has sought to strengthen the institution’s “ties to the city of Baltimore and enhance both economic development and the health and well-being of its closest neighbors,” the university said in a press release.

The choice of Perman is a departure from the recent past when the system’s regents have sought academics with backgrounds running undergraduate institutions.

Both Caret and the president of the system’s flagship College Park campus came under intense criticism in the past year for their handling of the death of a 19-year-old football player Jordan McNair and the fallout and scandal in the athletic department after his death.

College Park’s President Wallace Loh, originally stepped down last year, but then decided to remain until he retires in June 2020. A successor for Loh has not yet been named.

Over the past year, Caret had been criticized for his handling of several issues, including a rebuke by the Maryland General Assembly, which decided last winter to eliminate an amount equal to his $650,000 salary from the system’s administrative budget, a clear signal to his bosses, the Board of Regents, that many in the legislature disagreed with his leadership.

“In our search for a new USM chancellor we were looking for a nationally recognized leader — ideally someone who had run a large and complex institution, an innovator committed to economic growth and development — but above all a person with a passion for education and committed to shared governance, transparency, and diversity,” said chair of the Board of Regents Linda Gooden in a statement. “Fortunately for us that we found all of those things right in our own backyard.”

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