By Jenna Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 23, 2010; B08
St. Mary's College of Maryland trustees announced Monday that they have selected Joseph R. Urgo, a vice president at Hamilton College in Upstate New York, as the school's next president.
Board members of the small public college said they were drawn to Urgo's experience at public and private institutions, his scholarly work and his leadership at Hamilton, which they said has a national reputation among liberal arts colleges.
"As we got to know Dr. Urgo, we found he understood St. Mary's College, our sense of place, and shared our deep respect for the mission of a public liberal arts institution," said Molly Mahoney, head of the search committee.
Urgo, 54, became an administrator at Hamilton in 2006 while continuing his scholarly work, which centers on William Faulkner and Willa Cather, and will publish his fifth book this year. He has also taught at Bryant College (now Bryant University) in Rhode Island and was the English Department chairman at the University of Mississippi.
Urgo will take office July 1 and have an annual salary of $310,000. Current President Jane Margaret "Maggie" O'Brien, who assumed her post in 1996, announced her retirement more than a year ago. She plans to continue at the college as a fundraiser and professor.
The liberal arts college, on the banks of the St. Mary's River in Southern Maryland, has slightly more than 2,000 students.
Urgo is tasked with increasing St. Mary's academic prestige at a time when state funding has slowed and some liberal arts colleges are struggling with their identity. His plans include increasing the diversity of the student body and attracting more first-generation college students. Urgo said St. Mary's can become a national example of how to mesh the best qualities of public and private education.
"We don't want it to be a secret," he said of the campus. "Nothing should be a secret."