An article in yesterday's Washington Post may have left the incorrect impression that a New York educator was the fifth choice of the University of Maryland board of regents for the post of university president. In fact, John S. Toll was one of five candidates who were to have been considered simultaneously, but the other four withdrew their names before the selection process was completed.

The University of Maryland, spurned by four of five nominees to assume its presidency, has formally offered the job to a fifth nominee, John S. Toll, president of the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

But Toll, a former chairman of the physics department at Maryland, says he needs a few weeks to think it over.

"I feel very pleased and honored," said Toll. "Before responding, I am obligated to pursue various discusions and to weigh all factors carefully."

Already Toll hs been asked by New York Gov. Hugh L Carey and the Stony Brook Alumni Association to refuse the Maryland job and remain at Stony Brook, where he has been president since 1965.

For the University of Maryland, yesterday's offer capped a series of sometimes embarrassing events that began last month when a 26-member search committee submitted a list of five nominees to the board of regents for consideration as university president.

Although cloaked in secrecy up until that point, the names of the five finalists were leaked to the media and over the next several weeks all but Toll asked that their names be withdrawn from active consideration.

Members of the regents and the search committee were known to feel that it could be "aprofessional disaster" for Maryland to offer its presidency to someone who might later turn it down, but as events unfold, their options were sharply limited.

"This is a risk the University has to take." said R. Lee Hornbake, a vice president at Maryland and staff aide to the search committee. "With all the exposure, we were not in a position to say we're interested in you if you're interested in us. That would have been too transparent."

Should Toll turn down the Maryland job, the university would be in the awkward position of seeking someone to accept its top position with the full knowledge that five people nominated ahead of him had turned the job down.

In announcing that the job had been formally offered, regents' chairman B. Herbert Brown said Toll, 54, "has all of the qualifications we were seeking in our search for the next chief executive of the university. He is an educational leader of national stature.He has developed a comprehensive institution at Stony Brook and he previously served with distinction as chairman of the physics department at the University of Maryland."

A graduate of Yale, with a master's and a doctorate in physics from Princeton, Toll came to Maryland as head of the physics department in 1953 at the age of 29.

Over the next dozen years, he built the department into one of the top academic departments at the College Park campus and one of the nation's most prestigious.

When he went to Stony Brook as president in 1965, the institution, only three years old, had an enrollment of 1,800 students. Currently Stony Brook's enrollment is 17,000 students, both graduate and undergraduate, and by the mid 1980s, it is expected to increase to 25,000.

Toll is generally credited with being the chief architect of Stony Brook's growth and development as well as the builder of its high academic standing.

In a 1975 reaccreditation examination by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, Stony Brook was termed "an institution of national stature in the time-honoured and traditional terms of the outstanding private universities and of such public institutions as Berkeley, Michigan and Illmois."

On seral occasions, Toll had said he wants to complete the task of building Stony Brook into "one of the finest public universities in the nation" and both Varey and the alumi mentioned this in urging him to remain.

"I urge you to consider the important work left to be done and hope you will decide to remain with us," Carey said in a letter to Toll last Friday.

In a resolution, the alumni association expressed the hopes that Toll "will put aside thoughs of Maryland and rededicate himself to the challenges just beginning here as Stony Brook achieves the national recognition for which Dr. Toll has worked so long and hard."

Should Toll turn the Maryland job down, the Maryland regents would have the option of culling more names from the original list compiled by the search committee or of beginning the search all over again. That committee reviewed 298 applications and nominations and from it produced a list of 25 active candidates from which the five finalists were drawn.

The regents are seeking a replacement for Wilson H. Elkins who retires July 1 at the manatory retirement age of 70!

The other four finalists who with-drew from consideration were Stanley O. Ikenberry, senior vice president of Pennslyvania State University; Merlin K. Du Val, vice president of health sciences at the University of Arizona; David P. Gardner, president of the University of Utah, and Peter Magrath, president of the University of Minnesota.