UMD123: 33

Thirty-three represents the number of previous presidents of the University of Maryland

Since its founding in 1856, the present-day University of Maryland, College Park, has operated under three different monikers and numerous forms of administration, but one thing has remained constant: a single person has been tasked with running the show. Dr. Wallace Loh heads just the 34th administration to guide the university, and our UMD123 number today recognizes the 33 men to hold the job (however temporarily) before him.

Presidents of the Maryland Agricultural College

Charles Benedict Calvert

The university was first chartered in 1856 as the Maryland Agricultural College on land that was part of the Riversdale estate of Charles Benedict Calvert. Classes began in 1859 with 34 students, including four of Calvert’s sons.

  1. Benjamin Hallowell, 1859 – President for one month. A Quaker who only took the job on the condition that slave labor not be used on the college farm.
  2. Charles Benedict Calvert, acting, 1859-60 – Our founder took the reins himself temporarily until a suitable replacement could be found.
  3. John Work Scott, 1860 – Elected president, but may never have even stepped foot on campus!
  4. John M. Colby, 1860-61 – Saw enrollment rise but then fall sharply with the approach of the Civil War.
  5. Henry Onderdonk, 1861-1864 – Forced to resign amidst accusations that he willingly harbored and feted Confederate soldiers under the command of General Bradley Johnson on their way to the assault of Fort Stevens in the capital.
  6. Nicholas B. Worthington, acting, 1864-1867 – A journalist and professor, he sold almost half of the original campus to meet outstanding debts. As a result of the college’s bankruptcy and the Maryland General Assembly’s decision to designate it a Morrill Land Grant institution, the State of Maryland takes a partial ownership stake in the college for the first time.
George Washington Custis Lee
  1. George Washington Custis Lee, 1866 – The son of Confederate general Robert E. Lee and descendant of Martha Washington, he was offered the position of president but eventually declined due to his loyalty to the Virginia Military Institute and opposition from the Maryland legislature
  2. Charles L. C. Minor, 1867-1868 – Another former Confederate officer, Minor had only 16 pupils when classes opened in 1867.
  3. Franklin Buchanan, 1868-1869 – Yet another former rebel, Buchanan was the first Superintendent of the Naval Academy in Annapolis before serving as the highest-ranking admiral in the Confederate Navy.
  4. Samuel Regester, 1869-1873 – A Methodist minister, Regester eliminated the Bachelor of Science degree and implemented rigid religious discipline.
  5. Samuel Jones, 1873-1875 – After a brief respite, the college once again elected a Confederate officer as president. Former Major General Samuel Jones greatly expanded the curriculum and shifted the focus away from agriculture and towards military training.
Cadets_Class of 1890
Cadets, Class of 1890
  1. William H. Parker, 1875-1882 – Parker saw service in the Civil War as a captain in the: _________ (you guessed it), Confederate Navy! He continued Jones’ unpopular focus on militarism until the state legislature pressured him to resign by threatening to withhold funding.
  2. Augustine J. Smith, 1883-1887 – A commercial agent for a manufacturing firm, Smith sought to build connections between the college and farmers throughout the state.
  3. James L. Bryan, 1887 – Head of schools in Dorchester county, Bryan declined the job after visiting campus.
  4. Allen Dodge, acting, 1887-1888 – A school trustee, Dodge filled in after Bryan turned down the presidency.
  5. Henry E. Alvord, 1888-1892 – In a shocking break with MAC presidential tradition, Alvord was a former major in the Union army. He shifted in the opposite direction of some previous administrations, choosing to focus the school’s efforts almost exclusively on agriculture
Richard W. Silvester
  1. Richard W. Silvester, 1892-1912 – The school’s first long-term president, Silvester served for two decades until a devastating fire the night of November 29, 1912, burned down two major buildings campus. Already in poor health and now faced with the enormous challenges of re-opening the college, Silvester resigned shortly after the conflagration.

Barracks burning, November 29, 1912

  1. Thomas H. Spence, acting, 1912-1913 – A professor of languages, Spence oversaw the construction of temporary buildings and dormitories as the college struggled to resume operations.
  2. Harry J. Patterson, 1913-1917 – The once-and-future director of the Agricultural Experiment Station (housed at the Rossborough Inn), which was unaffected by the fire), Patterson presided over the transfer of the college to full state control in 1916. H.J. Patterson Hall was later named in his honor.

Presidents of the Maryland State College of Agriculture

Albert F. Woods

The Maryland Agricultural College became the Maryland State College of Agriculture when the state takes complete control in 1916. Female students enroll for the first time.

  1. Harry J. Patterson remains as president.
  2. Albert F. Woods, 1917-1926 – Following the end of World War I, in 1918, the college saw a large increase in funding and enrollment. Most critically, the state consolidated Maryland State with the University of Maryland at Baltimore in 1920, leaving Woods in charge of the newly rechristened University of Maryland. Woods Hall was named in his honor in 1954.

Presidents of the University of Maryland (1920-1970)

  1. Albert F. Woods remains as president following the merger.
  2. Raymond A. Pearson, 1926-1935 – Pearson oversaw a period of physical growth at both the College Park and Baltimore campuses. The university fully embraced its new identity during this time, including the adoption of a terrapin mascot and the construction of the first Testudo statue .
Curley Byrd
  1. Harry Clifton “Curley” Byrd, 1935-1954 – A lifelong Terrapin, Byrd was a 1908 MAC graduate and a star football quarterback, baseball pitcher, and track sprinter during his student days. After a brief period as a semi-professional athlete, Byrd returned to Maryland as a multi-sport coach and worked his way up to athletic director, then assistant to President Pearson, before finally assuming the top job himself in 1935. Thanks to New Deal spending, the post-war economic boom, and the G.I. Bill, Byrd oversaw a period of tremendous growth by the university. Also, despite his reluctance, the university fully desegregated during the 1950s. Byrd never lost his enthusiasm for athletics, however, and he lent his name to the old football stadium (located across Route 1) and the present Maryland Stadium. He resigned the presidency in 1954 to pursue a failed gubernatorial bid against Governor Theodore McKeldin
  2. Thomas B. Symons, acting, 1954 – A former Dean of Agriculture and Director of the Agricultural Experiment Station, Symons oversaw the remodeling of the latter’s former home, Rossborough Inn, into the faculty club during his nine months at the helm. Symons Hall is named in his honor
Queen Elizabeth and President Elkins
President Elkins informs the Queen on the finer points of American football.
  1. Wilson Homer “Bull” Elkins, 1954-1978 – Arriving at Maryland from what is now the University of Texas, El Paso, Elkins sharply increased the university’s academic standards. In 1957, he put 18% of the undergraduate population on academic probation for poor grades and eventually sent 14% home. The result was a major improvement in the university’s image; by 1964, 77% of admitted freshman came from the top half of their high school class, and Phi Beta Kappa finally agreed to establish a chapter at Maryland after two previous refusals. It wasn’t all sunshine and daydreams at Maryland during the 1960s, however, as the mood in the nation and on campus turned sour over civil rights and the deepening military involvement in Vietnam. Tensions grew to a boiling point in 1970, when protests over the invasion of Cambodia led to the deployment of the National Guard on campus for several weeks. That same year, the General Assembly united the five University of Maryland campuses (College Park, Baltimore, Baltimore County, Eastern Shore, and University College) under a single presidential administration and promoted Elkins to the new job. Thereafter, each campus would be directed by a “chancellor” – filling the role of the previous president. The current administration building of the University System of Maryland in Adelphi is named in Elkins’ honor.

Chancellors of the University of Maryland, College Park

Robert Gluckstern
  1. Charles E. Bishop, 1970-1974 – An agricultural expert, Bishop arrived from North Carolina to become the first chancellor of the College Park campus.
  2. John W. Dorsey, acting, 1974-1975 – A Maryland alumnus, Dorsey served as a vice-chancellor until 1977 when he left to take the top job at UMBC.
  3. Robert L. Gluckstern, 1975-1982 – Arriving from UMass, Amherst, Gluckstern worked tirelessly to raise academic standards and entrance requirements still higher. His passion for education was such that he resigned his administrative role in 1982 to return to teaching and research full-time.
  4. William English “Brit” Kirwan, interim, 1982
John Slaughter
  1. John B. Slaughter, 1982-1988 – The former director of the National Science Foundation, Slaughter was the first African American to head the university. During his tenure on campus, Slaughter made major advances in the recruitment and retention of African American students and faculty. He also acted to stabilize the university during the upheaval surrounding the sudden death of Terrapin basketball star Len Bias in 1986. Slaughter resigned in 1988 to become the president of Occidental College in Los Angeles and later worked to increase the number of engineers of color as CEO of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME)

Presidents of the University of Maryland, College Park

In 1988, the Maryland General Assembly again restructured the administrative organization of the state’s public schools of higher education by forming the University of Maryland System (now the University System of Maryland), which combined the five University of Maryland campuses with six other state schools (Bowie State, Coppin State, Frostburg, Salisbury, Towson, and the University of Baltimore). The University Maryland, College Park, was designated the flagship institution of the system that governed all the state schools in Maryland except for Morgan State and St. Mary’s College. The reorganization also came with a title swap: the head of the university system was now called the “chancellor” and the individual schools were once again led by a “president.”

Brit Kirwan
  1. William English “Brit” Kirwan, 1988-1998 – Kirwan was acting chancellor between Robert Gluckstern and John Slaughter and filled in again when the latter resigned in 1988. In 1989, he was officially appointed as the first president of the university since the position was reestablished. Kirwan worked tirelessly to modernize and streamline the university’s operations and placed a renewed emphasis on undergraduates. He reorganized the academic divisions into a more standard structure of colleges and schools and overcame state budget deficits with a new focus on fundraising. Kirwan left in 1998 to run Ohio State, but he returned four years later as Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, a position he held until 2015. The former math building is now named in his honor.
  2. Gregory L. Geoffroy, acting, 1998 – An administrator at the university until 2008, he left to become president of Iowa State.
Dan Mote
  1. Clayton Daniel Mote, Jr., 1998-2010 – A long-time faculty member and administrator at UC Berkeley, Mote arrived in College Park with a vision to make Maryland as prestigious as the institution he had left. Under his leadership, the University of Maryland attracted record numbers of applicants, significantly raised the academic profile of entering students, tripled the number of students participating in the Study Abroad program, emphasized giving each undergraduate a special educational experience beyond his/her major, increased research funding more than 150%, and enhanced the excellence of the university’s faculty. Mote also initiated and raised money for the university’s biggest building boom in its history, transforming the university’s physical environment with new buildings and renovations that serve the academic mission, research and student and alumni life. Major projects included the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Jeong H. Kim Engineering Building, Bioscience Research Building, Knight Hall, renovation and expansion of Tawes Hall and Van Munching Hall, Xfinity Center, the M Square Research Park, and the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center, among others. In addition, he created Maryland Day, the campus-wide annual open house  that connects the university to people of all ages in the greater community.
  2. Nariman Farvardin, acting, 2010 – Provost and former Dean of the College of Engineering, Farvardin served as acting president for several months after Dr. Mote retired
Wallace Loh
  1. Wallace D. Loh, 2010-present – Our current president, Dr. Loh stands on the shoulders of the 33 men who came before him and looks to lead Maryland into an even more glorious future

This is a post in our new series on Terrapin Tales called UMD123! Similar to our “ABC’s of UMD” series last semester, posts in this series will take a look at the university’s history “by the numbers.” New posts will come out twice a month throughout the semester; on the Terrapin Tales blog search “UMD123” or use the UMD123 tag. You can also check out Twitter #UMD123. If you want to learn more about campus history, you can also visit our encyclopedia University of Maryland A to Z: MAC to Millennium for more UMD facts.

(Much of the information from this post came from the university’s Past Presidents webpage)


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