University of Maryland, College Park President Wallace Loh will remain with the university through 2020, and the University System of Maryland Board of Regents will review the system’s governance structure and operation, the system announced Wednesday.
Loh had previously announced he would retire this June amid fallout from the from last year’s investigation into the death of University of Maryland football player Jordan McNair and the investigation into the football team’s culture.
After the board asked Loh to reinstate DJ Durkin as football coach, Loh announced he would retire at the end of this year. He later fired Durkin anyway.
The board’s actions created an uproar on the university campus and from donors and state lawmakers, who worried that the Board of Regents had overstepped its bounds. They also questioned the transparency with which the board made its decisions.
Then-board Chair James Brady later resigned after the campus community made it clear they were unhappy with the board’s actions. That backlash included a university fundraiser saying Loh may have dealt a “fatal blow” to the university’s capital campaign.
Loh’s decision to stay another year will give the Board of Regents more time to find a replacement to lead the state’s flagship public university.
“Selecting the leader of any USM institution is among the Board of Regents’ most important responsibilities,” Linda Gooden, the board’s chair, said. “The search for the new leader of Maryland’s flagship will be critically important to the future of that institution and to the entire state. As a board, we must take, and are determined to take, the time necessary to select a bold and talented leader who can continue the upward trajectory of one of the nation’s great public research universities.”
Gooden added that the search could take up to a year or more. She appointed Regent Gary Attman, a university alumnus, to chair the search committee.
Loh’s continued service would also help with reforms to the school’s athletic department and university fundraising, Gooden said.
“Dr. Loh is currently leading several initiatives critical to the university’s future, including implementing reforms in the university’s athletic department, hiring key student-facing leaders and continuing the capital campaign,” Gooden said. “To ensure these efforts continue without interruption for the benefit of the current and future students and faculty, the board and Dr. Loh mutually agree that it is in the university’s best interest for him to continue leading the University of Maryland, College Park, while the search for the new president proceeds.”
State Sen. Jim Rosapepe, D-Anne Arundel and Prince George’s, whose district neighbors College Park, said he begged Loh to reconsider his retirement.
“It would be terrific if President Loh stays,” Rosapepe said in an interview last week. “I have been urging the Board of Regents for months to urge him to stay. He’s done a terrific job and I want him to keep doing a terrific.”
The board has commissioned the Association of Governing Boards and Colleges to launch a review next month, with the expectation that it will be completed in March. It will be led by the association’s president, Rick Legon.
Gooden said even if last fall’s events had not happened, it was time for the board to review its governance structure.
“Since being elected chair of the USM Board of Regents in the fall, I have worked with the board and the chancellor to increase the transparency of the board’s work and refocus everyone’s attention on the board’s role in overseeing Maryland’s public university system in ways that best support our students,” Gooden said in a statement. “Regardless of other circumstances, and after two decades without a review, good governance demands that we examine best practices for 21st century governing boards and assess the current governance structure to determine if changes are needed to improve governance.”
The board has also appointed a commission to oversee the review, hoping a separate commission makes the review more independent than if the Board of Regents oversaw the review. The commission is made up of:
- Norm Augustine, a former member of the Board of Regents, former chair and CEO of Lockheed Martin and former chair of the Maryland Economic Development and Business Climate Commission;
- Rushern Baker III, former Prince George’s County Executive;
- Molly Broad, former president of American Council on Education (ACE) and former president of the University of North Carolina;
- Calvin Butler, CEO of Baltimore Gas and Electric;
- William ‘Brit’ Kirwan, a former system chancellor and president of the University of Maryland, College Park.
In a news release, the board said it has taken steps recently to operate more transparently and effectively. Those steps include meetings with legislators in Annapolis and Washington and with community leaders in College Park. At its annual retreat in November the board reviewed the role and operations of the system and created a new committee focused on enterprise risk management.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Molly Broad’s qualifications. She is the former president of the American Council on Education.