COLLEGE PARK – After 12 years leading the University System of Maryland, Chancellor William “Britt” E. Kirwan has chosen to step down from the position, ending a run of more than 50 years of involvement in public higher education.
Kirwan will remain as chancellor until the USM Board of Regents has named a successor.
I have decided that this is the right time to announce my intention to step down," Kirwan said. "It has been a tremendous honor and privilege to lead the state of Maryland's public higher education system. Thanks to the excellent board members and outstanding USM administrators, faculty, staff and students with whom I have had the privilege to work, we have accomplished a great deal. I am enormously proud of our collective efforts, and I believe the system is poised to continue on its paths of academic excellence, inclusion, and innovation that have become its hallmark."
Anne Moultrie, a USM spokesperson, said the Board of Regents will appoint a committee to conduct a national search for the system’s fourth chancellor.
The university system consists of 12 institutions: Bowie State University; Coppin State University; Frostburg State University; Salisbury University; Towson University; University of Baltimore; University of Maryland, Baltimore; University of Maryland, Baltimore County; University of Maryland, College Park; University of Maryland Eastern Shore; University of Maryland University College; and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Studies. The system also includes the Universities at Shady Grove and University System of Maryland at Hagerstown. System-wide student enrollment exceeds 153,000.
During his tenure Kirwan, 76, has championed many efforts, including an initiative to make tuition affordable for students. According to the University of Maryland’s communications office the average tuition for undergraduate in-state students at USM institutions, once the nation's sixth highest, now ranks 26th.
During the 2003-2004 school year, Kirwan helped the system start an initiative to optimize resources and save money. According to the system’s communications office, the initiative yielded more than $460 million in savings through joint procurement, energy conservation and more efficient use of space and buildings, improvements in business processes, and other actions.
In 2012 the university system completed a six-year, $2.1 billion federated campaign to support scholarships, professorships, buildings, and more.
"It is difficult to envision the University System of Maryland without Brit Kirwan at the helm," said James L. Shea, chair of the USM Board of Regents. "Under his exceptional leadership, USM has established itself as a public higher education system focused on student success, and on service to the state, the nation, and beyond. We are very fortunate to have had Brit as the system's chancellor. He will be sorely missed, but he has built a strong system that will continue to flourish."
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said Kirwan has been an invaluable resource for his administration.
“We're incredibly grateful to (Kirwan) for his leadership in strategically aligning course offerings to spur economic development and help close our state's 'skills gap,” O’Malley said. “His work to improve important and essential transitions for community college students to four-year institutions; and his efforts to help my administration hold down the cost of college to the lowest levels in the nation.
U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said Kirwan has been a visionary leader and had a lasting impact on local education.
Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (Md.-5) wished continued success for Kirwan and his wife Patty as they continue to move on with their lives.
“Chancellor Kirwan has been that magic combination of great intellect, long vision, and extraordinary people skills," Hoyer said. "He led the University of Maryland, College Park to become one of the country's great academic institutions. In the process, he became one of America's most respected leaders and voices.”
While he may be retiring, Kirwan said he will remain active and continue to push for programs and initiatives to help young people get a college education.
"I plan to continue to devote a major portion of my time and energies to promoting causes that mean so much to me, including programs focused on ensuring more low-income students have a chance to complete a college degree and on strategies using technology to find lower-cost means of delivering high quality higher education."