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University System of Maryland Chancellor to Step Down After 12 Years

William E. “Brit” Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, plans to vacate the position after more than 50 years in higher education.

William E. “Brit” Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, plans to vacate the position after more than 50 years in higher education. File|Patch
William E. “Brit” Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, plans to vacate the position after more than 50 years in higher education. File|Patch

William E. “Brit” Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, plans to vacate the position after more than 50 years in higher education.

In an email to colleagues, Kirwan said he informed the USM Board of Regents of his intention last week. Kirwan plans to retain the role of chancellor until a successor is picked, reports the UMD student newspaper.

“While my energy and passion for serving the system remain unabated, I have come to the reluctant conclusion that it is time for me to pass the baton on to new leadership and devote my energies to my family and to a few causes about which I care so deeply,” he wrote.

Kirwan called his tenure as chancellor the “capstone” of his higher education career, which has spanned 50 years. Under his leadership, the system boosted its sustainability efforts, made strides toward expanding higher education access and kept tuition increases at a national low.

Board chairman Jim Shea and Kirwan will appoint a selection committee and they hope to announce a successor in the next few months, the student paper said. 

Kirwan, 76, joined the University of Maryland at College Park as an assistant mathematics professor in 1964 and worked his way up to president, a role he held from 1988 to 1998. He left to become president of Ohio State University before returning as chancellor of USM in 2002, reports the Baltimore Business Journal.

His work promoting diversity in higher education began during his nine-year tenure as president of the University of Maryland, College Park and was recognized nationally.

But in recent years, the University System has been criticized for duplicating programs at its schools, which the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education said hurt demographics at the system’s historically black institutions. In October, U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake agreed, the Business Journal says, writing that program duplication “continues to exacerbate the racial identifiability of Maryland’s HBIs by limiting their competitiveness in program offerings.”

The system was not involved in the suit, the Business Journal says, but Kirwan has defended the handling of programming at historically black institutions. 

Locally, Kirwan serves on the board of the Greater Baltimore Committee, Maryland Chamber of Commerce, Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore and the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education. 

In recent years Kirwan has worked to boost the Maryland system’s reputation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and encouraged more minority students to pursue degrees in those fields. In addition, he has been focused on cyber security, commercializing university research and establishing clearer pathways to drive Maryland-educated students to local jobs.

The university system employs 20,000 people, including nearly 9,000 full-time faculty members.

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