Interim president named for Coppin State

A former leader of a national group of public universities has been named the interim president of Coppin State University, the state university system announced Wednesday.

Mortimer H. Neufville, who until June had served as the interim president of University of Maryland Eastern Shore, will become the interim president Jan. 23 when the current president, Reginald S. Avery, steps down.

Avery received a vote of no confidence from the faculty last year. He pledged to increase the university's low graduation rate when he arrived in 2008, only to see it continue to fall.

"My goal is really to look at the priorities for the University of Maryland system and see how Coppin can play its role in achieving those goals and objectives," Neufville said in an interview Wednesday.

University System of Maryland Chancellor William E. Kirwan said in a statement that Neufville had "a history of serving higher education with distinction and effectiveness" and is "well positioned to serve Coppin well during this critical transition period."

Coppin, located in West Baltimore, has struggled to stabilize financially and retain students over recent years. The college draws most of its 3,900 students from city schools, and many need to complete remedial course work after enrolling.

Neufville spent 15 years in leadership positions at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, which, like Coppin, is a historically black university. He holds a doctorate and master's degree in animal science from the University of Florida. He is a former executive vice president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and continues to serve as a consultant for that organization.

Neufville, who lives in Germantown, said he enjoys retirement and is not seeking to permanently serve as Coppin's president. He said he would strive to prepare the way for the university's next permanent leader, as he had done at University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

"I assisted them in cementing their strategic plan so it was relatively easy for the new president to see the direction of the institution and hit the ground running," he said.

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