Maryland native picked to head Salisbury State; Dudley-Eshbach set to be school's fifth president in 5 years


SALISBURY -- Janet Dudley-Eshbach, a Maryland native whose 25-year academic career has included teaching and administrative jobs in three states, is headed home to become president of Salisbury State University.

The president of Fairmont State College in Fairmont, W.Va., since 1996, Dudley-Eshbach was selected yesterday by the state university system's board of regents from a field of 11 candidates that was winnowed down to three in a search that began last fall. She will be the 75-year-old university's eighth president and its fifth in five years.

"I can tell you this is a dream job," Dudley-Eshbach said. "I was not job-hunting, but of the 3,500 or so colleges and universities in this country, this is one that seemed right."

Dudley-Eshbach, 47, replaces William C. Merwin, an administrator and fund-raiser who surprised and angered some Salisbury State officials when he left the Eastern Shore campus last year for a similar post in Florida after three years in the $170,000 position.

The change in leadership comes as Salisbury State is attracting increasing national attention, including its three-year ranking among U.S. News and World Report's top 10 public regional universities in the North and accolades as one of 350 institutions recognized this year for excellence by Princeton Review.

This month, university officials announced plans to change the institution's name to Salisbury University, a name they say is more in keeping with its improving image. The new name requires approval from the General Assembly, which is expected next year.

Members of an 18-member search committee, mindful of maintaining recent momentum, were eager to speed the selection process, said Dr. Thomas W. Jones, chairman of the committee and dean of Salisbury's school of science and technology. The university's provost job is also open, said Jones, who has taught and worked at the college for 23 years.

"I think her first task is going to be providing stability to the academic leadership at Salisbury State," Jones said of Dudley-Eshbach. "I think the new name will actually play as an advantage for her as someone coming in new."

Dudley-Eshbach and her husband, Joe Eshbach, a 57-year-old registered nurse who took early retirement from railroad career with CSX Corp., own a second home in Fenwick, Del. Their children, Joe, 16, and Caroline, 14, will attend Bennett High School in Salisbury next year. The family will live on campus in the ornate brick President's House.

A specialist in Latin-American, Dudley-Eshbach began her career at Goucher College in Towson. She spent nearly six years as an administrator at the State University of New York Potsdam, where she worked for Merwin.

Salisbury's interim president, Dr. Joel Jones, a former president of Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., said the job is ideal for Dudley-Eshbach.

"I've followed her career for years. I tried to hire her myself in Colorado four years ago," Jones said. "She's someone who can wear jeans one day, then put on a suit and hold her own with the governor in Annapolis."

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