C.D. “Dan” Mote Jr., the longest-serving president of the University of Maryland, College Park, will retire at the end of August after 12 years at the school’s top post.
Representatives from the state university system’s Board of Regents did not say when they would select his replacement.
In a letter sent Monday, Mote praised the university’s students, faculty and staff for their “tenacious spirit [and] unwavering commitment to excellence and dedication,” and looked back on his years at Maryland as being “remarkably successful.”
“A university becomes one of the great ones when, and only when, an ‘expectation of greatness’ is embedded in its culture. When an institution has this expectation, it will replicate this belief in every decision it makes — in who it hires, in what is taught, in how it is led, in what standards of achievement are expected, among others,” Mote wrote.
Mote has spent much of the last decade trying to capitalize on Maryland’s strengths as a research university, and succeeded in attracting $500 million in federal research grants in 2009, a 150 percent increase over the previous year.
Clifford Kendall, chairman of the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents, said in an interview that the selection process for a new president would take at least six months, but probably not more than a year.
He also praised Mote for attracting “all time high-” quality faculty and students, for stepping up research development and fundraising efforts, and for overseeing successful capital expansions including the building of the Comcast Center, a new engineering school building and an addition to the university’s business school.
“I think the university is on a very good track,” Kendall said. “One of the things Dan did was to inherit a very good situation and made it better and better.”
But Mote also leaves the university at a time of transition, leaving on the table at least one important project that he had previously made a big priority in his agenda.
In a commentary published last February in The Daily Record, Mote touted the university as a “powerful attractor of enterprises to the state: private industry, federal agencies and private capital,” and mentioned a $900 million development project on campus-owned land as being among the school’s most successful investments involving the private sector.
That project, a proposed cluster of office and research buildings, restaurants and shops known as East Campus, hit a snag when its lead developer dropped out, citing the weak economy.
A development team consisting of Washington’s Foulger-Pratt and Rockville’s Argo Investment Co., pulled out in November. The 38-acre project was to have included a grocery store, a movie theater, a performing arts venue and a luxury hotel.
But Ann Wylie, Maryland’s vice president for administrative affairs, said that the real reason for the stall in the development is that the university needs to relocate hundreds of employees who work in old East Campus buildings before it can start building there. To that end, the university announced recently that it would purchase the Washington Post’s College Park newspaper printing plant and reuse it as offices. That deal, expected to be approved by the state’s Board of Public Works at its Feb. 24 meeting, was part of Mote’s vision for the campus, Wylie said.
“The fact that he’s stepping down is not going to change the institution’s commitment,” she said. “It was simply his leadership that made it go forward.”
“We knew we needed a vibrant town center, that it would help us a lot,” she said. “We knew that it would be a stumbling block. This was an area we thought was holding us back. … I think the purchase of the Post building makes this an inevitability. It was a very important step, and it happens under his leadership. So to me, he’s making it happen.