New U-Md. President Loh: 'Go Terps!'
The newly appointed president of the University of Maryland made his first appearance in College Park on Wednesday, and offered himself as an example of the American dream fulfilled through education.
Born in Shanghai and raised partly in Peru, Wallace D. Loh immigrated to America alone, put himself through college and graduate school and rose to the top of academia.
"That is a story that can only happen in America, because it is not a story about me. It is a story that the American dream continues," Loh said, addressing the university community in an afternoon ceremony on campus.
(Here is the new U-Md. president chatting with members of the university community after his formal introduction Wednesday.)
Loh was announced Tuesday as the successor to C.D. "Dan" Mote as president of Maryland's largest public university.
He brings a dizzying array of qualifications. He is provost of the University of Iowa, a former dean and law professor who has taught in at least eight schools, a onetime state government policy aide and a trained psychologist.
"What has this man not done?" joked William "Brit" Kirwan, chancellor of Maryland state schools, as he introduced Loh.
The audience learned a bit more about the presidential search, whose details had been a closely guarded secret. Clifford Kendall, chairman of the state board of regents, informed those assembled that Loh had been chosen from a field of more than 400 nominees and applicants. Later, speaking to reporters, he said the field had been narrowed to 18 candidates for formal interviews. Kendall said three "outstanding candidates" were forwarded to the board by the search committee, and that the board unanimously voted for Loh.
Kendall did not go so far as to say Loh was the board's first choice. College boards sometimes settle for a second choice when a first choice is not available. Such details have not been revealed in this search, and may never be. Kirwan, in an interview Tuesday, at least implied that Loh was the group's top selection, saying he had recommended that the panel hire Loh.
Kendall, speaking today, said the trustees "wanted an experienced administrator, someone who could resonate with the community. ... We wanted a scholar. ... The board unanimously saw all of these qualities in Dr. Loh."
Such was his enthusiasm, Kendall began to introduce Loh as "the next president of the United ... " Then he stopped, and joked that the presence of U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat and U-Md. graduate, had distracted him.
Loh completed the joke when he took the podium: "If I botch this job," he said, "then surely I might consider running for higher office."
The new president alluded to the Testudo, a tortoise sculpture that students evidently rub for good luck, and said he might himself pay it a visit before he takes office.
Loh left no doubt about his priority: academics.
"The recruitment and retention of top faculty and staff has to be the top priority of the president," he said. And: "No university is better than the quality of its faculty."
Asked more pointedly about athletics, Loh launched into an extended analogy, largely by way of saying that, no, athletics would not be his beacon at U-Md.
"I like to think of the university as a kind of house with a large front porch," he said. "And the front porch is athletics."
As everyone knows, the front porch is not the most important part of the house. "But, because it's the front porch, it's the most visible part of the house," he said. And so it must be tended to.
Loh hinted that he would pursue a larger international student population and lucrative academic research contracts to liberate the university from its dependence on state funding, which he said may be in more or less permanent decline.
"It's a matter of projecting the campus to the world, and bringing the world to the campus," he said.
Loh said he hoped to inspire other students to follow his lead and achieve his family's dream of education.
Loh, U-Md.'s first Asian American president, said he was raised by "fundamental Confucian values. One is the priority of education of your children." In Chinese culture, he said, only family matters more.
"In other words," he said, "family, education and work, in that order."
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Daniel de Vise
August 18, 2010; 6:19 PM ET
Categories: Administration , Publics | Tags: UMD Loh, UMD president, University Maryland presidential search, Wallace Loh
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