Robert J. Wickenheiser announced yesterday he will resign as president of Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg after 16 years in charge of the Catholic school.
Dr. Wickenheiser's last year has been marked by controversy over the emphasis he placed on the college's education and business programs and graduate school, rather than its traditional liberal arts offerings.
As part of his restructuring, a popular dean was displaced, prompting student demonstrations.
The president also ruffled feathers last year when he wrote a letter suggesting it might be time for Mount St. Mary's longtime basketball coach, Jim Phelan, to retire.
Dr. Wickenheiser, 50, said in a prepared statement that his resignation, which takes effect May 10, was not prompted by the controversies.
"I believe the time has come for me to move on to new challenges and opportunities," he said simply, adding that it was time for the college "to move ahead under new leadership."
Dr. Wickenheiser hinted that he had decided to resign some time ago. The decision, he said, had given him freedom to make academic decisions that were not universally popular. "There were areas in which firm and difficult actions had to be taken," he said.
Jerome W. Geckle, a Baltimore County businessman who is chairman of the Mount St. Mary's board, praised the outgoing president.
"We appreciate the tough decisions he made and his willingness to pay the personal price by becoming the lightning rod for criticism," Mr. Geckle said.
Dr. Wickenheiser came to Mount St. Mary's, located in northern Frederick County, from Princeton University, where he had been an English professor.
During his time at Mount St. Mary's, the school's endowment grew from less than $1 million to roughly $15 million.
He said yesterday that he was considering various possibilities for his future.