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Turnover in college presidents Rapid transition: State schools, private and public, are losing experienced leaders.


MARYLAND'S higher-education scene is undergoing startling change. Long-established and well-known college presidents have left the scene. New leaders are acclimating themselves to their surroundings and the daunting challenges that confront these campuses.

Look around. On the Eastern Shore, Thomas E. Bellavance announced this week he is leaving after presiding over a remarkable renaissance at Salisbury State University. Fifteen miles away in Princess Anne, William P. Hytche announced he is retiring after a two-decade quest that saw the University of Maryland Eastern Shore campus make vast strides. In Southern Maryland, Edward T. Lewis gave notice at St. Mary's College, which he turned into a gem of a public liberal arts institution.

Hood College and Washington College inaugurated new presidents last month. Johns Hopkins has installed an interim president. Last year saw turnovers at Loyola College, Goucher College, the University of Maryland at Baltimore and Mount St. Mary's. Bowie State and the University of Maryland Baltimore County changed leaders in 1993, Notre Dame of Maryland in 1992 and Frostburg State in 1991.

Gone from local campuses are such heavy hitters as the late Joseph Sellinger (Loyola), William Richardson (Johns Hopkins), Rhoda Dorsey (Goucher), Kathleen Feeley (Notre Dame) and Michael Hooker (UMBC). They became key players in civic and governmental matters. Their successors may eventually equal this local prominence, but it will take time.

Meanwhile, these new presidents face sharp cuts in federal education programs. Public schools also know the governor won't even keep their budgets level with inflation. It will be a time of downsizing and re-thinking how colleges go about educating students.

Running a college is a high-pressure job. The average tenure is just six years. Fund-raising demands are enormous. Recruiting top-flight professors when funds are tight requires relentless salesmanship. Pleasing the faculty, students and alumni -- while answering to trustees or a state board -- keeps the college president precariously balanced on a tightrope.

Maryland, and the Baltimore region, have been blessed by the stability of its higher-education leaders in recent decades. Some veterans remain, but the new generation of college presidents has yet to make its presence felt. Their skills and talents could contribute mightily to the future growth of this community.

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