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U-Md. names new president: Iowa provost Loh

Updated with Tuesday's developments.

Wallace D. Loh, provost at the University of Iowa, has been appointed president of the University of Maryland, university officials announced Tuesday.

Loh will take the lead of Maryland's flagship public university Nov. 1, replacing C.D. (Dan) Mote, who is retiring after 12 years. News of the appointment leaked out late Monday in e-mails sent to members of the university community. Nariman Farvardin, provost at University of Maryland, will serve as interim president until Loh arrives.

"Dr. Loh is the right person to lead our flagship university to its next level of greatness," said Clifford Kendall, chair of the governing board of the state university system, in a prepared statement. "His wealth of experience and achievements in higher education demonstrate his strong commitment to excellence in teaching, research, and service as well as his exceptional ability to move institutions forward."

In a note to the Iowa university community, Loh said his short tenure there had been "the most professionally and personally fulfilling of my entire career." He also stressed that he had not been job-hunting.

"This new opportunity is not one that I sought," he wrote. "The institution and the search consultants recruited me to take part in a relatively quick and confidential search process. I was -- and still am -- rather stunned, while honored to have been appointed."

Loh has more than three decades of higher education experience. As second in command at the University of Iowa since 2008, he has overseen personnel and budgets for the state university's 11 colleges. The University of Iowa has 30,000 students and a $2.6 billion budget.


At College Park, Loh will join an institution that has ascended to the highest rank of public universities. Once known as a "safety school," U-Md. rose in stature under Mote and now ranks among the top 20 public universities in the annual U.S. News Best Colleges rankings. The university has 37,000 students and is the largest public institution of higher education in Maryland.

Mote has said he would take a one-year leave and then return to the university to participate "in any way that is helpful to the campus." He retains his status as an engineering professor.

Loh earns at least $350,000 a year as provost. Mote, by comparison, earned $464,600 in 2009, according to a report in the Diamondback, the U-Md. student newspaper. Loh's salary at U-Md. has not been disclosed.

Loh, 65, is an accomplished academician with an unusual life story. He was born in Shanghai and emigrated at a young age to Lima, Peru, following his diplomat father. After high school, he journeyed alone to the United States. He earned a bachelor's degree at Grinnell College in Iowa, a master's from Cornell, a doctorate in psychology from the University of MIchigan and a law degree from Yale.

He served as dean of the University of Washington Law School, vice chancellor of the University of Colorado and a dean at Seattle University before becoming provost of Iowa's flagship in 2008.

At Iowa, Loh has been front and center in a campaign to curb excessive student drinking. He and the university have played an unusually public role in advocating for tougher underage drinking laws.

He was also involved in an initiative to hire faculty in "clusters" to serve evolving research areas, and in an effort to build learning communities for freshmen to live and study together within the large state university, according to Iowa news accounts.

Loh is married and has a daughter at Occidental College in California.

According to the U-Md. statement, the University of Iowa has "increased the number of honor, minority, and international students; improved retention; expanded international exchanges; and increased administrative efficiencies and effectiveness" under Loh's lead.

"Dr. Loh brings a remarkable intellect, talent and life experience to the University of Maryland, College Park, the University System of Maryland, and the state," said William E. Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, in a prepared statement. "His commitment to excellence, inclusion, internationalization of higher education, cross-disciplinary research, and outreach to the communities we serve align perfectly with the priorities of the system and the campus."

Loh said in a prepared comment that he is "thrilled to join the University System of Maryland to work together with the other presidents -- under the leadership of the Regents and Chancellor Kirwan -- for the advancement of the state's public higher education system."

His appointment at College Park drew mostly favorable reaction overnight, although a few comments appended to news accounts hinted that he might be too old to begin a presidency, or that U-Md. might have been better-served by a leader drawn from a more prestigious university. The University of Iowa ranks 29th among national public universities on the U.S. News & World Report rankings released Tuesday, 11 places behind U-Md.

Loh is the university's first Asian American president. Student leaders voiced hope that he will raise its currency on the global stage.

"He brings a worldly perspective that any university would relish," said Kevin Ford, a member of the university's Student Government Association, in a statement.

There has been at least one hint of controversy in Loh's long career, a reverse discrimination lawsuit filed against the University of Washington law school while Loh was dean there. Three white applicants sued the school, claiming they were denied admission in the mid-1990s because of their race, according to an account in the Iowa City Press-Citizen newspaper. An appeals court ruled in the university's favor, but state officials barred public universities from considering race in admissions.

University officials plan a reception for the president-elect and his wife at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the university's alumni center.

There had been concern that the U-Md. search committee would not find a replacement for Mote by his Aug. 31 retirement. The committee, assembled shortly after Mote's February announcement, finished its work a half month before that date.

Loh's delayed start date means, however, that an interim leader will have to step in for a few months.

That man is Farvardin, the No. 2 leader in College Park since summer 2007. Farvardin is a professor of electrical and computer engineering and previously served as dean of the university's esteemed engineering school.

Farvardin is credited with leading U-Md.'s strategic plan, including development of a highly competitive Honors College and efforts to increase student retention and graduation. He holds bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Mote has already left College Park, according to a report in the Diamondback student newspaper.

Does College Inc. come up garbled on your Blackberry? Try this address, and bookmark it for easy access.

By Daniel de Vise  |  August 16, 2010; 11:39 PM ET
Categories:  Administration  | Tags: Dan Mote, UMD president, University Maryland president, Wallace Loh  
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Dr. Loh sounds distinguished and promising. At 65, though, he's old to be starting a job as a university president. How long before he retires? I wonder that the trustees couldn't or didn't find someone who could hold the position for a long time.

Posted by: SilverSpringer1 | August 17, 2010 12:22 AM | Report abuse

This may be a good sign, considering the rumors about College Park and the Big Ten. Joining that conference, with its enhanced athletic revenue and its research consortium (the CIC) would elevate Maryland to the top tier of public flagships. As a UMCP alumnus, I sincerely hope it happens.

Posted by: VPaterno | August 17, 2010 1:19 AM | Report abuse

To make a university go up in rankings you pick up-and-coming leaders from a *better* university, not retreads from a worse one (Iowa is ranked 29th among public universities).

Posted by: MikeinDC2 | August 17, 2010 2:15 AM | Report abuse

Dr. Loh sounds like a fine choice to continue guiding UMCP.

Posted by: sanderling5 | August 17, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

An excellent selection , especially to reach out to the Asian American communityand consolidate the UMD's growth and increased standing.
However, fans should forget about joining the Big Ten for sports. Life would be even worse than being in the ACC. All of the school's natural rivalries in the mid atlantic would disappear and the football team would NEVER reach .500 again.
Stick with the academics now that they are finaly on the rise.

Posted by: jmsbh | August 17, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

"This may be a good sign, considering the rumors about College Park and the Big Ten. Joining that conference, with its enhanced athletic revenue and its research consortium (the CIC) would elevate Maryland to the top tier of public flagships. As a UMCP alumnus, I sincerely hope it happens."

I've yet to see any rumors. Since Maryland's not a member of the Association of American Universities (membership in which was key in Nebraska joining and Notre Dame not), the chances of it happening seem to be somewhere between slim and none.

Posted by: FishBulb | August 17, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Is the '29' ranking for IOWA the current ranking? Today's Post is reporting that MD is the 56th rated university (according to the 2010 US NEWS college rankings released today). I didn't see anything on IOWA's rank.

Posted by: Terps450 | August 17, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

I forgot to add the link to the Post article...

Posted by: Terps450 | August 17, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

"Since Maryland's not a member of the Association of American Universities (membership in which was key in Nebraska joining and Notre Dame not)"

False. Maryland joined the AAU in 1969 according to their website.

Posted by: Colm1 | August 17, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

As a minority grad of UMCP, I applaud the selection of Dr. Loh. His bio indicates a variety of experiences and situations which should benefit the progression of the University System. Good luck to him!

Posted by: terpfanz | August 17, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

I wish him good luck in this position.

Posted by: JohnRice | August 17, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

It's humorous to hear a man with Chinese ancestory being described as a minority? There are more Chinese men on this planet than any other combination of race and gender.

Maryland already has thousand's of students of Asian ancestry as well other's from all over the world. They got there because they are good students not because it is politicaly correct!

It seems obvious that finding a qualified minority is important in liberal academia for selecting Presidents.

Dr. Loh has a good academic background and experience but did Iowa's academic standing improve? If it did, what did he do and how?

I just hope that Dr. Loh can actually be an inspired leader but little of that is mentioned in the article? Hopefully he is not just an overeducated stiff who is there as a safe choice?

Posted by: sbf845 | August 17, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

You might be confusing two different rankings. UMCP is ranked 56th among ALL universities in the nation (public and private), but it is ranked in the top 20 of all PUBLIC universities.

Posted by: PubliusMaryland | August 17, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

It is false to say that the University of Maryland is not a member of the very prestigious Association of American Universities. In fact, Maryland became a member in 1969. I welcome President Loh and would love to see Maryland join the Big Ten.

Posted by: skassel | August 17, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

No mention of his view on athletics or impact of the search for Athletic Director. No mention of any sports in his extensive background.

Posted by: Timo17 | August 17, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Loh's personal story is certainly impressive and his academic credentials are somewhat noteworthy.

However, I was expecting MD to appoint someone who had a key leadership role at a much more prestigious university. I wonder if MD had difficulty in interesting such individuals.

I also wonder about the following being a large factor in Loh's eventual selection: "At Iowa, Loh has been front and center in a campaign to curb excessive student drinking. He and the university have played an unusually public role in advocating for tougher underage drinking laws."

Drinking and violence on campus have made MD a national laughing stock and object of contempt and derision. It is the first image most people associate with MD, particularly outside the MD/DC area.

That's most unfortunate for a pretty decent university, and perhaps the selection was made with a short-term intensive eye on addressing the drinking/violence problems and beginning to rehabilitate MD's image in the public eye at large. Then, perhaps MD can be appreciated for its legitimate strengths.

If Loh accomlishes that objective in 4 or 5 years, more distinguished candidates to replace him as President might then be available to heading MD.

Posted by: smartheart | August 17, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

too old? oh please, there is enough age discrimination these days. Haven't you heard? 65 is the new 55! We have 70 years+ ultra-successful business people, presidential cabinet members (and presidents) who are much older who did a fine job, not to mention Supreme Court Justices and Senators (although some of them ARE too old) I cannot believe someone actually said that, he/she must be under 30! :-)

Posted by: carol217 | August 17, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

I don't like his haircut.

Posted by: jameskim99 | August 17, 2010 7:46 PM | Report abuse

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