Judy Jolley Mohraz announced yesterday that she is quitting as president of Goucher College to head a new foundation in Arizona.
"It is the opportunity of a lifetime," Mohraz told a tearful assembly of about 150 college faculty and staff. members
"It is only such an opportunity that could have persuaded me to leave Goucher," she said. "I never knew an institution could impact me so deeply."
Mohraz, 56, has been the Towson school's ninth president for six years. She replaced Rhoda M. Dorsey, who was Goucher's president for 20 years.
"I think she's done an excellent job," Dorsey said. "I've watched the success of her fund-raising campaigns, the growth in the student body and other positive developments with great interest.
"She's a very intelligent woman who cares very deeply for students, with an academic background that leaves her with great respect for faculty and staff."
Mohraz's six years equals the average for presidents of undergraduate colleges such as Goucher, according to the statistics from the American Council for Education.
Those figures also show that in 1995, presidents of all colleges and universities were averaging 7.3 years in office, a year longer than in 1986.
"These I think have been the happiest and most rewarding years of my life," Mohraz said of her time at Goucher. "Goucher is a remarkable institution that changes students' lives and has changed my life."
She leaves to head the Piper Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz. It was set up by the will of Virginia Galvin Piper, who died last year.
Piper, the widow of the founder of Motorola, left $600 million and directed that it all be given away in the next 50 years.
"One thing I have learned at Goucher is the transformational power of foundations, their ability to make a real impact on their communities," Mohraz said, noting the just-announced gift of $1 million to Goucher from the France-Merrick foundation to endow a professorship of service learning.
"I think what appeals to me about this is what I've learned at Goucher about taking intellectual risks, keeping growing, taking on new challenges," she said. "That is what I see our graduates doing.
Mohraz said she will remain at Goucher until the end of the summer. Marilyn Warshawsky, chairwoman of the school's board of trustees, told the assembly that Robert Welch, vice president and academic dean, will be interim president.
Welch indicated that he will not be a candidate for the permanent job and that at the end of his interim year he plans to leave administrative work and return to teaching philosophy.
Warshawsky said a search committee will begin work in the fall and that she expects a new president to be on the job by the fall of next year.
Mohraz said one reason she felt she could leave Goucher is that it is in such good shape that it will attract strong candidates for the presidency.
"The 382 freshmen coming in the fall represent the largest and most diverse class in the history of the school," she said. "Our endowment is healthy. Exceptional candidates will apply for this position."
Mohraz's departure means that three of the state's private liberal arts colleges are looking for new presidents. Robert Chambers decided not to return to the presidency of Western Maryland College while on a sabbatical after 15 years there. Shirley Peterson left Hood College after five years in the wake of disputes with the faculty over the direction and governance of that school.
At public institutions, Hoke Smith has announced that he will retire as president of Towson University next year, and Bowie State University and Salisbury State University are installing new presidents this summer.
Before coming to Goucher, Mohraz spent 20 years at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, teaching history for all but the last four years, when she was associate provost.
A native of Texas, Mohraz earned her bachelor's and master's degrees at Baylor University and her doctorate at the University of Illinois. Her husband, Bijan Mohraz, is on at the faculty at SMU where he teaches engineering. He has been commuting to Baltimore on weekends for the past six years.
"It's about the same distance," he said yesterday of his wife's new job. "I'll just be flying west instead of east."