Roger Casey applied to become president of McDaniel College in 2010 with a little piece of advice from an educational mentor.
Casey said he assumed part of the interview process would have him answer as to how long he planned on holding the position. His mentor told him he likely wouldn’t get much accomplished in less than 10 years.
“That’s what I said at the interview. I had no idea, honestly, what it meant. But that’s what I said,” Casey said. “And 10 years in ... I really began to realize, you know, I think [my mentor] was correct. It really does take about a decade to start realizing the things that you started working on 10 years ago.”
The timing was right earlier this year, Casey said, to start planning his next professional move. And he made it official this week ― the ninth president in the Westminster-based school’s history is leaving his post at the end of the 2020-21 school year.
Casey, 59, took his first presidency job when started in July 2010, and he said much has been accomplished during his 10-plus school years on “the Hill.” But Casey said earlier this year he started thinking about his exit strategy, before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the area.
“As you look at the next sort of set of challenges that lie ahead, hopefully post-COVID ... it just felt like this was a really good time to hand the reins off to the next institutional leader,” he said.
A transition committee is being formed by the McDaniel College Board of Trustees, college officials have said. This committee will be developing the plan for a presidential search and pledges to work closely with members of the McDaniel community, including faculty, staff, students and alumni.
The college has undergone several major construction and renovation projects during Casey’s tenure, including campus landmarks such as Kenneth R. Gill Stadium, Gill Center, Hoover Library, and Roj Student Center, which is planned to be finished in October.
Casey said seeing the Hill take shape is one of the highlights of his presidency.
“Certainly the beautification of campus, the curb appeal I thought, was a critically important thing to focus on,” Casey said. “I’m really pleased when our alumni come back on campus and they say, ‘Boy, it’s never looked more beautiful. It just feels great being on campus.’ ”
Casey pointed to the college’s diverse population as a positive and said, “I think we have a demographic here that looks like what American higher education looks like, and I’m really proud of that.”
“We’ve nearly doubled our diversity at the college. The past two classes that we’ve brought in had no majority,” Casey said. “That took a lot of work and lot of partnerships to make that happen.”
Public relations director Cheryl Knauer said nearly 50% of this year’s newest class is made up of students of color. She shared statistics showing that of that class, 27.9% is Black, 12.7% is Hispanic or Latino and 48.7% is white.
McDaniel gaining national attention is another source of pride for its outgoing president. The college now finds itself ranked in publications such as U.S. News & World Report, Washington Monthly, Money Magazine, and The Princeton Review.
“We joked that 10 or more years ago, if a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, somebody from McDaniel must have chopped it down,” Casey said. “We weren’t getting the kind of recognition that I think the college merited. ... I think there’s a nice complement of external validation now, and I feel great about that.”
Casey said he’s interested in teaching again after his presidency is over at McDaniel, and he’d love to travel to the college’s European campus in Budapest, Hungary. Casey is also planning to catch up on literature during an upcoming sabbatical ― leisure reading that doesn’t have to do with how to avoid higher education lawsuits, he joked.
Casey said he has elderly parents who live in South Carolina, and that also factored into his decision to step down.
But he’s not done yet, and Casey said he won’t be a stranger when it comes to visiting campus and gathering with alumni.
“I love the Hill. It’s really true. I’ve got a green-and-gold tartan heart,” Casey said. "I’ve worked in some really great places, and they’ve all been the kind of schools that I went to. ... None of them have the kind of sense of alumni community of this place. As the president of the college, you get paid to say that in some ways. But it is really true.