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Washington College appoints Kurt M. Landgraf new president

Washington College has appointed Kurt M. Landgraf, a longtime DuPont executive and president of ETS, which provides measurement programs and evaluations for schools, as its next president.

Landgraf, whose selection was announced Friday, one day after the resignation of former President Sheila Bair, distinguished himself as "an exceptional and highly qualified candidate" among 400 hopefuls during the national search for a president in 2015, the college's Board of Visitors and Governors said. He will begin his tenure July 1.

"Throughout his remarkable career, Kurt Landgraf has set himself apart from his peers as an exceptional leader and an exemplar of the values we seek to instill in our students, faculty, and community here at Washington College," Board Chair H. Lawrence Culp Jr. said in a statement. "We believe his collaborative leadership style, his ability to craft ambitious and integrated strategies, and his operational experience will be an asset to Washington College."

In the same news release, Landgraf said he was honored to be offered the job and assured the college that Bair's work to address the national student debt crisis and fundraising campaign "will not only continue, but I hope will be energized and invigorated." As president, Bair helped institute several student debt-reduction programs aimed at making a degree more accessible.

"To join the ranks of this storied and historic institution is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I'm certain that by working with the faculty, staff, student body, alumni, and board, as well as others in the community, we will be able to accomplish extraordinary things," Landgraf said.

Landgraf served as vice chairman of New Jersey's Higher Education Commission, the state's governing board for colleges and universities, and president of the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science. He is a member of the boards of directors for Corning Incorporated and the Louisiana-Pacific Corporation.

Bair's resignation after two years ended her five-year term early. The mother of two said she is leaving to spend more time with her family.

"Unfortunately, this job has required that I be away from my family quite a bit, and I underestimated the hardship that would create when I took up leadership of the college," she said in a statement Thursday.

Appointed in May 2015, Bair was the first female president in the 234-year history of the college in Chestertown.

"Her work on behalf of both this institution, and the nation's undergraduate population as a whole, to diminish our national student debt crisis has been remarkable, and we both thank and commend President Bair for her dedication to improving access to high-quality education for all students," Culp said in a statement Thursday.

Bair served from 2006 to 2011 as the chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, where she helped manage the U.S. government's response to the recession. She served as a senior adviser to the Pew Charitable Trusts before coming to Washington College.

"Our generation has had the responsibility in government and business, and I don't think we've done a great job with the financial system," Bair told The Baltimore Sun in a 2015 interview. "We've given our young people an economy that presents challenges for them. I want to make sure they don't suffer undue financial burdens when they enter the financial world."

While serving as Washington's president, she helped create a program to match scholarship dollars to every dollar spent from a family's 529 or Education Savings Account and also launched George's Brigade, a scholarship program for low-income students. The program aided 14 students last year who were the first in their families to go on to college, according to school officials. Next fall, 20 more students are expected to benefit from the scholarships.

Under her leadership, the school adopted "Fixedfor4," which froze tuition costs for students during their four years at the college.

The school also started the "Dam the Debt" initiative during Bair's tenure. It has awarded $659,000 in scholarships to graduating seniors to help pay off their federal student loans, school officials said.

Landgraf has already displayed a willingness to embrace the college's master plan and continue Bair's work, said Jonathan McCollum, the college's Faculty Council chair and chair of the Department of Music.

"I'm certain his leadership will lend our campus and community essential guidance, and assist us in every facet of operations, from helping fight the national student debt crisis, to accomplishing our unprecedented fundraising goals as part of our Forge a Legacy campaign," McCollum said.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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