Morgan State president to retire after 25 years

Local,News,Mike Silvestri
Aging buildings, a shrinking enrollment and an underfunded budget marked Morgan State University in the early 1980s.

Since then, the school has produced the most Fulbright Scholars and awarded the third most doctorate degrees among the country’s historically black colleges and universities.

Now the man who led Morgan State during this period of growth, President Earl Sanford Richardson, announced his retirement, effective Dec. 31, 2009

“The most notable success is undoubtedly its advancement to doctoral research university status,” Richardson said in a statement. “However, despite this success, we are at a critical juncture in the university’s history, with the issue and goal of institutional parity yet to be resolved.”

Richardson was appointed president in 1984. In the past 10 years, Morgan’s undergraduate applications have more than doubled, reaching nearly 12,000 in 2006; doctoral degrees awarded have gone from five in 1997 to 40 in 2007; and hundreds of millions of dollars in capital funding have transformed the campus.

“During his tenure, Morgan experienced unprecedented growth and development,” Morgan’s Board of Regents Chairman Dallas R. Evans said in a statement. “His departure is truly the end of an era at Morgan.”

Richardson and Morgan officials did not respond to requests for comment, but Maryland’s top education officials described the Eastern Shore native as his school’s dogged, passionate champion for a quarter century.

“All one has to do is drive on that campus to see the effect he has had on Morgan,” said William “Brit” Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland.

Kirwan, who has known Richardson for about 30 years, has clashed with him at times while overseeing 11 universities, from which Morgan is independent.

“He’s just been a tenacious and very effective advocate for better funding for Morgan,” Kirwan said. “He and I have had differences over the years, but I consider him a friend and greatly respect and applaud all he’s done to advance higher education in Maryland.”

Richardson tangled most recently with the Maryland Higher Education Commission over its decision to allow a joint MBA program at Towson University and the University of Baltimore when Morgan already had a similar program.

Morgan argued that allowing the program at other, nearby schools duplicated it and violated civil rights laws. His opponents, including Higher Education Commission Secretary James E. Lyons Sr., said a massive demand for business degrees made the program necessary.

The conflict, however, would be seen as a “drop in the bucket” compared with the rest of Richardson’s career, Lyons said.

“The legacy nationally will be the role Morgan has played producing graduates in the science and engineering area,” Lyons said.

“Clearly, he is going to be remembered as a fighter, one who has fought extremely hard -- even to the point he has upset others at times -- but he fought very hard and was very passionate.”

Richardson, who was born in Westover and turned 65 Thursday, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in social science from the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, and a Master of Science and doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania.

“In a sense,” Kirwan added, “all good things come to an end.”

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