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Towson University President Maravene Loeschke speaks at the 2012 graduation.
Towson University President Maravene Loeschke speaks at the 2012 graduation. (Noah Scialom 2012 File)

Towson University President Maravene Loeschke, who had been on leave since August after having been diagnosed with cancer, announced her resignation Thursday.

"It is [the] deepest sadness of my life that I find I must resign as president of Towson University because of my health," Loeschke, 67, said in an email to the school community.

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The university announced in April that Loeschke had adrenal cancer. Loeschke, an alumna, former professor and dean at Towson, became president in January 2012.

Her announcement came as the school held two winter commencement exercises Thursday, with another scheduled for Friday.

"I was to return in January to continue guiding our goals and vision, but my health will not allow me to give Towson the 100 percent of my attention that it deserves," Loeschke said in the email. "Thank you all for making it possible for me to attempt to fight this disease that so many of us are addressing.

"Any day I have spent at Towson as a student, faculty, chairperson, dean, and president has been a precious gift," she said.

After the last graduate had walked the stage at the College of Fine Arts and Communication commencement on Thursday, acting President Timothy J.L. Chandler announced Loeschke's departure.

Chandler became visibly emotional as he spoke. He credited Loeschke with instilling a "vision for developing future leaders" at the university.

"We wish Maravene our best as she fights this illness with dignity and grace," he said.

Though Loeschke was not present at the ceremony, graduates and their families rose to give her a minutes-long ovation.

William E. Kirwan, the outgoing chancellor of the University System of Maryland, said he would consult with his successor, Robert Caret, in the spring before appointing a search committee to find a successor for Loeschke.

Caret was named Wednesday to succeed Kirwan, but he does not begin his tenure until July 1.

Kirwan called Loeschke's departure "a significant loss for Towson, the University System of Maryland and the state."

"Her tenure as president, while brief, will nevertheless have a lasting impact on her beloved institution in terms of educational quality, regional impact and community service," Kirwan said.

Myrna Cardin, chairwoman of Towson's board of visitors, said Loeschke was a leader who left a mark on the university.

"In my mind, what mattered most was the students," Cardin said. "She was with them at basketball games, and during football games she would play an instrument with the band at halftime.

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"This was her sole being: the students, and how we can make the eduction experience outstanding for them. Everyone wanted to perform a little bit better for her."

Baltimore County Councilman David Marks lauded Loeschke's involvement in the community. He recalled earlier this year when neighbors in Rodgers Forge expressed objections to plans for lighting at softball fields near their houses.

"She listened to the Rodgers Forge community and compromised," Marks said. He said he would miss Loeschke immensely.

"She had a collaborative manner and understood the value of partnerships — with Baltimore County government, the downtown Towson core and the neighbors that surround the university."

Chandler, who now becomes interim president, quoted Loeschke's familiar question to students: "How are you going to use your education to change the world?"

He said the question "rings loud and clear as we send off 2,400 more graduates this week at commencement. As we head into a new year, we are honored to carry on her vision of developing future leaders who will impact our community near and far."

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