As an educator, Joseph F. Shields has done it all.

He's been a teacher, a high school principal and a football coach. He's served in administrative positions at Prince George's Community College and the University of Maryland, including at the latter's Munich, Germany, campus.

And before accepting his current position as executive dean of Carroll Community College, the Pennsylvania native spent three years asthe executive officer of an U.S.-run two-year college in Panama.

Shields, 57, was chosen to lead CCC on the path to independence aftera national search that drew more than 80 candidates. He succeeds Elizabeth D. Blake, CCC's former executive director, who left the post last fall.

"I'm extremely pleased to be here," Shields said. "I'm excited and looking forward to the challenge and working with the people of Carroll County."

The challenge -- Future of Carroll Community College Task Force Report -- sits on Shields' tidy desk on this particular day, just a week after he began the $59,368 post. Mementos ofhis Panama job adorn the office walls.

He came to Carroll for thesame reasons he went to Panama. The position provides an opportunityto help establish an independent institution. CCC is run under the auspices of Catonsville Community College.

"We have a unique arrangement with Catonsville," he said. "We're like a child getting old enough to go on his own. There are anxieties for a parent letting go. But we'll always be a family with Catonsville."

Although Shields served as head of a two-year college, operated by the Department of Defense, one of his duties during his three years in Panama was to lay the groundwork for an independent institution.

"The opportunity in Panama was to establish an independent Pan-American university," Shields said. "We've made a lot of progress on that."

He considered initiating the college's transition from a two-year to a private, four-year institution of higher education his greatest challenge. The college, expected to begin operation in 1995, will serve not only Panama but also Central America and the Caribbean region.

"There's something about being involved with a new institution," said Shields, who began his education career in Delaware. "Everybody has a real commitment to make it happen."

He finds the situation similar in Carroll.

"This was an opportunity to take an institution into a new century," he said. "We're looking to the future and helping people meet theirneeds in the future. You don't often get that opportunity."

The first few days on the job have been spent reading the lengthy report and meeting who's who among Carroll County government and educators. They include County Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Elmer Lippy, and Schools Superintendent R. Edward Shilling.

He also has met with the CCC staff, the college's advisory board and Frederick D. Walsh, president of Catonsville Community College.

Shields' arrival at CCC has been low-key. Other than a welcome sign in the campus lobby, thereis little to suggest that something has changed at the Washington Road school, which opened last summer.

"Mostly, I'm just catching up," he said. "A lot of good things are happening here."

The CCC advisory board considers Shields among those good things.

"He was highly recommended," said Barbara Charnock, chair of CCC's advisory board. "We chose him for one major reason. We thought he was probably themost broad-based (candidate). He will be a good ambassador for the college."

Before his tenure as dean of evening and community education at Prince George's Community College, Shields served in several positions at the University of Maryland, where he earned a doctorate in educational administration.

"He's worked in Maryland. He knows Maryland," Charnock told the advisory board. "He's aware of the political issues in Maryland and how education and politics are mingled."

As he sits in his office, though, it's clear he has more than Maryland and CCC on his mind. The administrator may have left Panama, but it has not left him.

He is quick to show visitors an encased huacas, a replica of a pre-Columbian artifact that ancient Indians craftedin gold. It was given to him for his "dedication to the realization of a dream -- a Pan American University."

"I was very touched theygave me that," he recalled.

"Even with all these things happeningin their country, they had the time to dream about the future. You gain a real appreciation for your own country when you experience lifeunder a military dictatorship."

His tenure in Panama came during the invasion by U.S. military forces.

"In our backyard were artillery," he recalled. "We looked out the front window and saw U.S. soldiers running across the golf course. We knew there was going to be trouble because an American had been killed."

Still, for Shields and his wife, Kay, it was a "totally unexpected experience."

"It was the first time since the Civil War that American families were on the front line," he said. "Thank God the fire wasn't returned or it wouldhave been real frightening."

Living under a military dictatorshipcreated a lot of anxiety, he said.

"I had never really experienced fear. It was there to such a degree that's it's hard to explain," he said. "People were afraid to get their names in police reports because they were afraid it would be used against them later."

Although proud of his accomplishments in Panama, Shields and his wife, a painter, welcomed the opportunity to return to Maryland.

"Coming backto Maryland is a big plus," he said. "It just happened. This position was open when I wanted to return. They call it the luck of the Irish."

The Shieldses, who have two grown children, do not live in Carroll yet. Shields commutes about 50 miles a day from Bowie, Prince George's County.

"I had forgotten what Beltway traffic is like," he said. "We're anxious to get settled and become part of the community."

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad