Baltimore County

Former Maryland schools superintendent to establish the Dr. Nancy Grasmick Leadership Institute in Towson

In her two decades as Maryland’s state schools superintendent, Nancy Grasmick was a national leader in educational accountability and early childhood instruction. Her leadership helped Maryland's schools earn their ranking among the nation's best.

Saying there is a void in leadership in Maryland and across the United States, former state superintendent of schools Nancy Grasmick is establishing the Dr. Nancy Grasmick Leadership Institute at Towson University.

The institute will launch this summer and is meant to reshape leadership training standards.


“Too many times we put a lot of energy into planning and strategic thinking about planning,” Grasmick said, “but it is the outcome that really assesses whether those efforts have made a difference — a positive difference.”

The goal is to challenge the ways in which leadership programs are typically taught and to build a new “value system for leadership” that highlights skills — like personal ethics, she noted — often overlooked in favor of management-style training, said Grasmick, who led Maryland’s schools from 1991 to 2011 before stepping into a role at her alma mater as Towson University’s Presidential Scholar.


“Management is much more prescriptive,” she said. “ ’These are the requirements you follow.’ But if you are the leader, you have the ability to identify the opportunity, to put forward creativity — your role is much, much larger.”

Events over the past year have illustrated the vacuum of leadership, Grasmick said. She points to the ongoing U.S. Postal Service delays, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s mishandling of data regarding virus-related nursing home deaths, and practices that have allowed some businesses to flourish amid the coronavirus pandemic while others shuttered.

Grasmick and Towson University are seeking an executive director to head the institute and full-time certified coaches and mentors. She’s put up almost $500,000 of her own money to plan the endeavor over the past two years, she said.

The program, being developed after consultation with more than 200 organizations, is geared toward those in corporate, government and nonprofit sectors either already in managerial roles or with aspirations to rise to them.

Grasmick last year launched the Women’s Leadership Collective and said that program will be incorporated under the umbrella of the new Dr. Nancy Grasmick Leadership Institute.