Michael K. Hooker, who in six years as president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County promoted UMBC as part of a broad regional system, is leaving to run the five-campus University of Massachusetts system.
Dr. Hooker, 46, leaves a campus that is striving to become a full-blown research institution and returns to the school where he earned his doctorate -- now an expanded system that is struggling to find cohesion and direction.
He will assume his new duties Sept. 1.
Maryland education officials said Dr. Hooker would be missed.
"His powerful intellect is matched by a profound compassion; he is, in short, a superb academic leader," University of Maryland Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg said in a statement.
Dr. Hooker is credited with raising UMBC's profile, as well as increasing enrollment and the student retention rate. But some of his ambitious plans for the campus remain just that.
In 1989, Dr. Hooker told The Sun, "My passion is to build a region, not to build an institution, a university campus. My passion is to build the economy of this mid-Atlantic area."
And his grandest plan -- to merge UMBC with the University of Maryland at Baltimore -- has floundered politically for several years. Still, Dr. Hooker said yesterday, he is convinced the merger will take place soon.
The UMass Board of Trustees approved Dr. Hooker's selection yesterday.
Looking back on his UMBC accomplishments, Dr. Hooker said he takes the most pride in the steps taken toward his original goal of building "a new model of a public university that was intimately joined with economic development of the region that it serves, in our case its the Baltimore region.
"Through our high-technology programs, our biotechnology and other program, we have really developed deep and effective relationships with Martin Marietta, Westinghouse and biotechnology companies in the region," he said.
Dr. Hooker said he also takes great pride in the improvement of the racial climate at the Catonsville campus.
Daniel Taylor, a trustee and chairman of the Massachusetts search committee, said Dr. Hooker has strengths in areas most important to that university system: race relations and fiscal management. The UMass system has been hit hard in the past few years by recession-fueled budget cuts.
Before coming to UMBC, Dr. Hooker was president of Bennington College in Vermont, and dean of graduate and undergraduate studies at Johns Hopkins University.
At UMass, Dr. Hooker will replace Joseph Duffy, who resigned last year to become president of American University in Washington, D.C.
The Massachusetts system includes campuses in Amherst, where Dr. Hooker earned his master's and doctorate degrees in philosophy, as well as in Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell and Worcester.
The system recently grew from three to five schools with the addition of the Dartmouth and Lowell campuses. And the the Massachusetts legislature last year gave the new system increased independence and fiscal autonomy.
Dr. Hooker said yesterday it may take 10 years to rebuild the UMass system. He said he hoped the university's successes FTC would fuel the growth of the state's economy.
The Maryland Board of Regents, which oversees UMBC, is expected to soon name an interim replacement.