University of Maryland President C.D. Mote to step down in August

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 16, 2010

C.D. Mote Jr., who has led the University of Maryland on a 12-year journey into the top tier of public universities, will resign in August, he said Monday, confident that "the place is in good shape" and that it is time for someone else to take charge.

In a single generation, U-Md. has gone from being a safety school to the highest level of public higher education, not far behind the University of Virginia and the University of California at Berkeley in academic pedigree. Mote didn't begin the transformation, colleagues said, but he completed it.

"I don't think the university could have had a better president for these 12 years," said Clifford Kendall, chairman of the Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland. "He's moved it more dramatically than I can imagine anyone else could have moved it."

Mote, 73, will take a one-year leave and then return to the university to participate "in any way that is helpful to the campus," he said in an e-mail to the university community. He will retain his status as an engineering professor.

In an interview, the Berkeley-educated scholar said that his chief accomplishment at Maryland might have been "to create an expectation of excellence. . . . That's the most important thing you can do. We have been working on that night and day since I came, and I think people have that now."

Colleagues said he has also created the reality of excellence. Matriculating U-Md. students have never had higher grades or SAT scores, and freshman admission is at its most competitive level. The average grade-point average of this year's incoming class was 3.93, half a point higher than 12 years ago. Freshman applications have nearly doubled during Mote's tenure.

Mote hired the university's first Nobel laureate. The school's rank in U.S. News & World Report among public research universities has risen from 30th in 1998 to 18th this year. And research funding has more than doubled and exceeds $500 million annually.

Mote also led the two largest fundraising campaigns in U-Md. history and established the university's first independent foundation and governing board.

"It's a badge of honor now to get admitted to College Park," said William E. Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland and Mote's predecessor as president.

"Students here feel like they're at a world-class institution," said Steve Glickman, 21, student body president.

The university has not been without controversy during Mote's tenure.

Three months ago, several hundred students marched to the administration building to protest the firing of the school's popular diversity officer and the dwindling number of black students. The screening of a pornographic film last spring bruised relations between the school and some state lawmakers. And even with tuition frozen, students chafed at diminished services and rising fees.

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