They sang, danced and told stories about Maravene Loeschke at Towson University on Friday, as hundreds celebrated the life of the late university president described as warm, energetic and intensely focused on students.
Loeschke died of cancer June 25 at age 68, after stepping down as president in December. During a career in higher education that spanned 45 years, she was a Towson University student, professor, chair of the department of theater arts and dean. She became president of the institution in 2012. She also held positions at two other universities.
"Maravene embodied Towson," interim President Timothy J.L. Chandler told the crowd at SECU Arena on the university campus. "The love she poured into Towson and our love for her will live on."
Loeschke was "completely unflappable," said William E. "Brit" Kirwan, former chancellor of the University System of Maryland.
He recalled that during Loeschke's final interview for the job of university president, an earthquake struck, rattling the building and causing lights to go out. Loeschke simply suggested they move the interview to the parking lot — where she continued to make her case to the committee as cars drove around them.
"I have never known a college president whose life, career and persona were so intertwined with an institution," Kirwan said.
Loeschke also was remembered as a planner; in fact, she had planned every detail of the memorial service, from the song "Loving You," sung a cappella as a tribute to her husband, to a dance performance by a faculty member.
In a letter she wrote to be read at the service, Loeschke said: "I cannot imagine what a more rewarding career and life would have looked like."
Many speakers told of their admiration for Loeschke's capacity to engage with students.
One of those students, Cottie Winfield, was in the audience. The junior said that when the university's dance team went to the national championships in April, Loeschke, who was ailing and had left her university post, called them to wish them well. Then, when they won, the team called her back and shouted a pledge in the background while she listened.
"It was a big deal for us to know the president was on our side," Winfield said. "It was a goose bumps moment."