Just a year after I arrived at UMBC as a young vice provost in 1987, what we now know today as the University System of Maryland (USM) was formed through the merger of the five University of Maryland campuses and the six campuses in the State University and College System. The late John S. Toll, a renowned physicist who devoted the prime of his career to public higher education, served as the first Chancellor and quickly established a system that optimized the varied strengths of eleven institutions to give families and employers throughout the state access to outstanding academic programs and research discoveries, and talent.

Dr. Toll’s successors — the late Donald Langenberg, Brit Kirwan and Robert Caret — continued to build the collective impact of a growing number of USM campuses, research institutes and parks, and regional higher education centers. Maryland’s university system continues to thrive through the consistent support of our governor, legislators, the Board of Regents, and other public officials. As a result, our public university system now has a well-deserved reputation as a national leader in higher education, making the USM chancellor’s position one of the top academic posts in the nation.

e (Baltimore Sun photo by Barbara Haddock Taylor)

As the longest-serving president in the system, I am delighted that the Board of Regents concluded its national search by naming Jay Perman — the current president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) — as our next chancellor. Dr. Perman, a pediatric gastroenterologist who still makes time to see patients and train medical students, is simply the best person to continue building collaboration among USM institutions and our external stakeholders.

In a newly released book I have written with UMBC colleagues, we open with the point, “It’s not about me. It’s about us.” That sentiment embodies Jay Perman’s leadership style. He knows that it takes a community of students, faculty, staff and alumni working with community leaders to build a stronger Maryland for all.

Dr. Perman is also a proven leader of fellow college presidents, having served for several years as chair of the Council of University System Presidents. He is a gifted consensus builder. Like so many people at UMB and throughout Maryland, his fellow presidents trust him. We know he serves because he cares deeply about the power of education to transform lives. The strong connections he builds with students are always evident, whether he is speaking with a Baltimore City middle school student in the UMB CURE Scholars Program for aspiring health care professionals or working with a social work Ph.D. student.

Effective leaders empower a shared culture that enables their communities to work together to achieve goals. Jay Perman gets the power of the collective. He has masterfully aligned the talent and resources of seven strong graduate and professional schools to advance economic development, health and well-being in West Baltimore; built out the UMB Biopark; and greatly expanded research collaborations with the University of Maryland, College Park; UMBC and other USM institutions. Anyone concerned with equity, opportunity and quality of life in Maryland need only look at UMB’s commitment to addressing education, income and health disparities.

Most impressive, Dr. Perman has led all of this work with exceptional humanity, humility and integrity. I can think of no time more appropriate to have such a leader in our state and nation. He is authentic and selfless, and will inspire leaders across the USM and all sectors to continue to build the public good in Maryland.

Freeman Hrabowski, president of UMBC, served on the Board of Regents committee conducting the national search for the next chancellor of the University System of Maryland. He is co-author of “The Empowered University.” His email is hrabowski@umbc.edu.