With the recent announcement that retired Lt. Gen. Otto J. Guenther would step into the the role of chair of the Board of Trustees for McDaniel College, it also meant the end of a 12-year run for Martin K. P. “Marty” Hill.
Hill has been a member of the board for 26 years, since 1993, the year his daughter graduated from the college. According to his official college biography, “Under Hill’s guidance, every academic building on campus has been renovated, including Hill Hall, rededicated in 1995 in his honor.” He led the board’s approval of a 10-year campus master plan as part of the Buildings and Grounds Committee. His contributions to college fundraising campaigns are in the seven figures. In his business life, he is the president of Woodhaven Building and Development Inc.
The Times caught up with Hill to speak about the future of the college and why he decided to pass the reins after 12 years as board chair. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Is your daughter the reason you got involved with the college?
A: Really I got involved with the college a few years before she transferred to McDaniel ... I had connected with Bob Chambers, who was the president at that time, initially through some events ... with some local business people. They would give an update on the college and share what was happening. Bob and I just connected, and then as that grew, I connected with the college. And when he needed funding, he knew my phone number.
Q: Can you sum up the job of a member of the board or the board chairperson?
A: A member of the board is someone that has particular interest in the success of the college, someone that is willing to promote the college in the community. That will support the college financially in the annual fund and when there are other major fundraising efforts, and provide their expertise in advising the administration on various topics.
Trustees set the policies and such, but trustees don’t get involved in the administration of a college. They don’t get involved in hire and fire. The only person that the Board of Trustees can hires and can fire is the president. Everyone else is really the president’s authority. ... The day-to-day operation of the college is the administration. The trustees help to set the course.
Q: Why was now a time you thought it was right to pass on the reins?
A: I was chair of the board for 12 years. And I think its commonly accepted that effective leadership in any of these type of organization should see some change so you develop new people and you get new ideas. You don’t get stuck in one person’s way of thinking.
I enjoyed the job. I wasn’t tired of doing the job. But I just didn’t feel that it was in the best interest of the college after having served 12 years to continue in that role and not allow for new thinking and fresh thinking and somebody younger. I recently turned 75. Not that that’s affected me in any way. But it’s time for a change.
I’m going to stay involved. I’m still on the board. And I will contribute and do most anything I’m asked, except take a leadership role. I’ve done enough of that. I want to be one of the — using military terms — I want to be one of the grunts.
Q: In the big picture, what are some of the challenges that a small liberal arts college faces right now?
A: Well, the ongoing issue is always money. Attracting a good freshman class every year. The freshman class this year is the largest in the history of the college.
The challenge this year is going to be housing and and providing for that large influx of students. ... Give it another class like that next year. ... There’s a big void that you have to fill with the housing.
But the college, they are very forward-thinking people, very creative. And President Roger Casey is doing a superb job with leading the college.
One of the greatest accomplishments during my term was the hiring of Casey. The college is in great hands, and I’m here to do what ever I’m asked to do without being a leader again.
Q: Are there other accomplishments or projects that you hope will become a part of your legacy at McDaniel?
A: Well, we had the new stadium. That was a tremendous project that was fully funded with philanthropy. We took on no debt to build that, and that was led by one of our trustees, Mr. Kenneth Gill. So many of his peers and sports hall of fame people stepped up.
One of, if not the next most important thing that took place while I was in the position as chair of the board was this past year’s re-evaluation of the course makeup and doing a total refresh, and recognizing where there were some courses that needed to be eliminated or minimized and new education opportunities that needed to be added. ... That will do more to improve the likelihood of the continuation of McDaniel as a strong private liberal arts college than anything we could have done.
Q: I know that decision is one that not everyone is happy with. Is that something you have to contend with as chair of the board?
A: Well, it was board decision. The board — my leadership put that charge out to the provost. And the provost did such a stellar job in having the faculty really take the lead and come up with the recommendations. And final decisions were made by the provost and the president. But even in that case, there were appeals. And some of those appeals were accepted, and some were not. But McDaniel College is in a much stronger place this opening semester than 90% of their peers.
Q: I know another much-talked-about event was the name change from Western Maryland College in 2002. How do you think that that played out?
A: That played a significant role in positioning McDaniel to manage the limited number of 17-year-olds that were going to be in the market. It opened people’s eyes to the fact that the college isn’t up in Cumberland or some other place in Western Maryland and that it isn’t a public school. ... We’re getting our share of students that before wouldn’t even look at us.
Q: What’s kind of the next chapter for you? Are you still active in other business pursuits in Carroll County?
A: Well, I’m active in our business. We do residential development in Carroll County, and Adams County and York County in Pennsylvania.
I serve on the Carroll Hospital board. I serve on the LifeBridge Health board. I’m involved with the YMCA, my church and anything else that comes down the pike. I’m not looking for new places to get involved, and I am looking at cutting back some. But I haven’t learned how to spell “retire” yet.