Douglass Cater, a longtime Washington journalist and former special assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson, has been named to the presidency of Washington College, a 200-year-old liberal arts institution on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Noting that some fear independent liberal arts schools are "becoming an endangered species," Cater said he looks forward to the challenge of leading the small school, the 10th oldest private college in America.

With a reduction in government-backed student loans and grants and increased college expenses, he said, "We're in for a pretty tough decade in the funding of independent colleges. The costs of education have reached an almost intolerable level."

Cater said he hopes to continue his writing, focusing primarily on the problems facing education today.

A native of Montgomery, Ala., with two degrees from Harvard, Cater was Washington editor and later national affairs editor of The Reporter magazine. Until recently he served as vice chairman of the board of the London Observer. He is a senior fellow, founding member and trustee of the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies.

Cater has written books about government and the press in Washington as well as a political novel. He has coauthored studies of the media's role in society and won a number of journalism awards.

During the Johnson years, Cater worked on many education initiatives that became law, including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and the International Education Act. He was also involved in the formation of the Public Broadcasting Corporation and the Teacher Corps.

As an educator, Cater has held visiting professorial posts at several universities.

He succeeds the late Dr. Joseph H. McLain as 23rd president of Washington College, the only institution named after the first president with his expressed consent. The college has 685 undergraduates and is located on a 104-acre campus in Chestertown, the seat of Kent County.