Kirwan stresses need for funding at address to UM Senate


COLLEGE PARK -- Looking back on nearly a decade at the helm of the state's flagship campus, outgoing President William E. "Brit" Kirwan said yesterday that the University of Maryland, College Park remains "in striking distance" of greatness.

But he said the 33,000-student institution needs a consistent level of funding and greater influence in the state's university system.

In a warm farewell address to the College Park Senate, Kirwan, who leaves June 30 to become president of Ohio State University, said the campus has made remarkable progress despite economic woes in the early 1990s.

"No, we will not be 'in the ranks of the nation's best half-dozen public universities by the year 2000,' " Kirwan said, quoting his April 1990 inaugural speech. But he noted that within two years of setting that goal, the university had to close seven departments, eliminate 32 degree programs and dismantle one college in the face of a 20 percent drop in state funding.

"We can call it a dream deferred," he said, in a 30-minute speech that drew a standing ovation from the Senate, the campus policy body representing faculty, students and staff. Kirwan's wife, Patty, joined him for his last speech.

Despite belt-tightening since 1990, Kirwan contended that the College Park campus still ranks as one of the country's top 20 public research universities. He ticked off major gains over the past decade in the test scores of entering freshmen, in honors for faculty and in research grants received.

"Our efforts to improve the educational experience for undergraduates at the University of Maryland have reaped tremendous benefits in recent years," Kirwan said, "making us the university of choice, not second choice, for many of the very best students in Maryland and across the country."

He credited the honors program and took pride in the campus' efforts to diversify its faculty and student body, saying they had made the University of Maryland a national model for addressing racial issues.

While state funding has increased 10 percent, Kirwan noted that private fund-raising had more than tripled since he took office, and the university's endowment has grown almost three-fold.

On the heels of Kirwan's resignation in January, College Park's Board of Visitors pressed Gov. Parris N. Glendening and the General Assembly to give the university the funding it had been promised a decade ago. The governor responded by adding another $7 million, which Kirwan said was "very sweet."

But he cautioned that the "special circumstances" that boosted the College Park budget -- his resignation, and an election year -- are no guarantee for the future.

Pub Date: 5/12/98

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