End of an era at HCC President Burrill oversaw much growth at Columbia community college.

HOWARD COMMUNITY COLLEGE is not accustomed to selecting new presidents, so you'll have to excuse its board for being a bit rusty as it goes through the process. It has been 16 years since the 27-year-old institution last conducted this exercise, and that was but the second time it had to choose a new leader.

Dwight A. Burrill looked for all the world like he would be HCC president for life.


He's only 57, has roots in the community as immutable as those of the tall trees that surround the Columbia campus and has become a visible part of Howard County's business scene.

Those are among the reasons Dr. Burrill's recent retirement announcement caught many faculty members at HCC by surprise.


He has been a fixture at a young college in a relatively young town. He has provided stability and a management style marked by a reliance on strong administrators. His staff developed successful programs such as the Rouse Scholars, which has wooed talented high school graduates to enroll at the two-year college.

Perhaps his announcement should not have come as such a surprise, however. He has shown a strong interest in off-campus matters. He's taken a couple of stabs at business, including starting a travel agency that has him enmeshed in a messy lawsuit over a debt he will have to fight a month after he steps down. He has also played an active role in the county's Chamber of Commerce.

HCC has grown tremendously during his era, with enrollment rising from about 3,000 to nearly 5,000. Construction is under way for new classrooms, faculty offices, laboratories, child care and cultural arts facilities. Under Dr. Burrill's leadership, the college has gained a reputation for getting considerable mileage from advances in technology.

Dr. Burrill once sounded as if he would never leave. "I would like to be president as long as I can make an effective contribution," he remarked 15 months ago. But he feels it is time to move on.

HCC Chairman David A. Rakes and his fellow board members must decide what kind of president should lead the college into the next century -- a dynamic sort or a quiet, Burrill-esque personality? One thing is certain: He or she will have a strong community college to run.

Pub Date: 7/31/97