Darryll J. Pines — the longtime dean of the University of Maryland engineering school — was appointed the state flagship’s next president Wednesday by the University System of Maryland Board of Regents.
Pines will take over July 1, replacing Wallace Loh, whose 10-year tenure was marred by a scandal stemming from the death of football player Jordan McNair. Loh was expected to resign last school year as part of the fallout, but later said he would extend his presidency through 2020 to ensure “the transition of leadership occurs very smoothly.”
Regents chair Linda Gooden said Pines brings “a wealth of experience” to the position. After spending more than two decades as both a professor and dean in the A. James Clark School of Engineering, he knows the university community well.
“I can’t think of a better person to build on the excellence at the university and take it to even higher levels," Gooden said in a statement. "I know I speak for the entire board when I say we’ve found precisely the right person for this important job — College Park will indeed be in good hands.”
Pines, 55, said in a statement that he is honored to take on the role. He will oversee a campus of more than 40,000 students, 10,000 faculty and staff, and a $2.1 billion operating budget.
“I am well acquainted with and have long admired the outstanding faculty, the executive leadership, and the passionate and civically engaged alumni and students who make Maryland such a special place," he said. "I’m excited by this new challenge and can’t wait to listen, learn, and lead this incredible university.”
University system Chancellor Jay Perman, who himself took over last month, said he knew he had to get his first major appointment “absolutely right.” And Pines is that right choice, he said, pointing to his record of promoting science, technology, engineering and math education, boosting student retention and emphasizing research.
The engineering school’s one-year undergraduate retention rate is 91% and its five-year graduation rate is 75%, according to the university system. Pines also increased the number of tenured and tenure-track women faculty, and raised hundreds of millions of dollars for the university’s last capital campaign.
He helped the university secure the largest gift in its history: a $219 million donation from the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation to provide more scholarships, build new spaces for student collaboration and add endowed faculty chair positions.
Pines has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley and master’s and doctoral degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He started in College Park as an assistant professor in 1995, before assuming his role as dean in 2009.
“It’s fitting — and gratifying — that UMD will be led by a member of its own family, by someone who knows so well its people and programs, its considerable strengths and enormous potential,” Perman wrote in a letter to the university community. “I’m especially delighted that Dr. Pines and I share a passion for ensuring that any Marylander who desires a higher education has the opportunity to receive one.”
Student Government Association President Ireland Lesley is optimistic about the choice, which she said came as a surprise Wednesday night.
“I’ve heard wonderful things about Dean Pines, but I think it’ll be an interesting transition,” she said. “There’s a lot of distrust between student body and administration.”
Several incidents have rocked the university community over the past several years.
After McNair’s heatstroke death in May 2018, a pair of investigations found that the 19-year-old offensive lineman did not receive proper medical treatment and that the football team fostered “a culture where problems festered because too many players feared speaking out.”
A few months later, freshman Olivia Paregol died of complications from adenovirus, sparking questions about whether the university — which had seen several cases of the illness — should have done more to prevent her death.
And the university is still grappling with the death of 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III, a 23-year-old black Bowie State student who was stabbed in 2017 at a College Park bus stop by a white former student. Sean Urbanski was convicted of first-degree murder in December, but Prince George’s County prosecutors weren’t able to secure a hate crime conviction.
Not all students feel safe on campus, Lesley said, and "it’s going to be difficult, but necessary, for Dean Pines to rebuild that trust.”
The 21-year-old senior thinks it’s good Pines will take the helm already intimately aware of those issues.
“My biggest hope," Lesley said, “is that the attitude won’t be, ‘those things happened and now we have to move on,’ but instead really addressing the problems that were created and the ripple effects across the campus.”
College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn said he looks forward to working with Pines. Loh brought the relationship between the city and university closer, and the two entities are now working together to rebuild City Hall as a shared space.
“We have a lot of momentum in our work together,” Wojahn said, “so I have confidence and faith that Dr. Pines will continue in the strong spirit of collaboration between the city and the university.”
The Evening Sun Newsletter
Get your evening news in your e-mail inbox. Get all the top news and sports from the baltimoresun.com.
State Sen. Jim Rosapepe, who represents College Park, said the big question people who live in Prince George’s County will be asking now is how Pines plans to continue Loh’s work championing development in the area.
“How he will build on Wallace’s legacy on deep engagement with community development is yet to be seen — I look forward to working with him to do it,” Rosapepe said.
William “Brit” Kirwan, a former university president and system chancellor who was part of the search committee, said its members considered an “exceptionally strong pool of candidates” from across the country. But Pines stood out.
“With Darryll, you get the whole package,” Kirwan said.
The incoming president’s family is also closely tied to the university: He is the father of former River Hill High School and Terps soccer standout Donovan Pines, who now plays with D.C. United of Major League Soccer.