From Going BIG to Building a Greater College Park, President Wallace D. Loh Will Retire in June—and Leave a Stronger, Transformed UMD.By Terp Staff
There are many measures of leadership in higher education: degrees obtained, programs created, dollars raised, buildings constructed.
In the case of Wallace D. Loh, the number of small, gold turtle pins he enthusiastically handed out to faculty, staff and students works just as well—reminders of how a university president can’t be visible on every corner of the campus every day, but his vision will undoubtedly add up to a substantial collective impact.
After a decade leading the University of Maryland, Loh is retiring on June 30. He will be succeeded by Darryll J. Pines, a professor of aerospace engineering who led the A. James Clark School of Engineering as dean for 11 years.
It’s a natural time to reflect, so Terp reached out to people who were in a unique position to help make many of Loh’s priorities a reality: a scientist who propelled the university’s research accomplishments; a coach who made Maryland a pillar of Big Ten sports; a former county executive who pursued a new future for College Park; a philanthropist who gave back so Terps following in her footsteps would have new opportunities; and two alums who jumped at the chance to “Do Good.”
Read on to discover how the decade of Loh’s service became a fearless one.
EXPANDING THE RESEARCH ENTERPRISEESSAY BY ELLEN WILLIAMS
Each year I teach a class that brings together public policy, science and engineering students to develop a workable idea for a technology to mitigate climate change. The goal is not only a technically feasible project. What about the national policy environment would allow this innovation to grow and have an effect? What economic factors would have to be in place? This convergence of science and society symbolizes the last decade for me—both in my own work and at this university.
I’d had a full, exciting career in condensed matter physics at UMD when in 2010, BP offered me the chance to lead a sustainability initiative as the company’s chief scientist.
Ever since I was young, the question of the environment—a beautiful, balanced system we seem to be continually trying to force out of kilter—has always engaged me. So, I moved to London. After four years with BP, I had another amazing opportunity, and joined the U.S. Department of Energy as the director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, charged with innovating clean energy technologies.
In 2017, with the change of White House administrations, I returned to the University of Maryland. What a different place it is now, both in how it and the city of College Park look (not to mention how easy it is to find a good restaurant) and in our level of engagement with the world beyond campus. For me, the growing focus on sustainability in the university’s operations that Wallace Loh has made a priority, coupled with our ever-increasing prominence in clean energy and environmental research, are heartening.
There’s a clear sense of a university that is rallying around major research priorities with strong cross disciplinary collaboration, in areas ranging from quantum science and technology to health equity and the protection of the Chesapeake Bay. The recent combining of our research enterprise with that of the University of Maryland, Baltimore creates opportunities for fruitful research partnerships and raises the prominence of Maryland research.
As I tell my combined technology-policy class, the most challenging problems we confront as a society often start in the world of science. We’ll find the answers when, as UMD increasingly does, we look at them from all angles.
Ellen Williams is a Distinguished University Professor of physics.
STORMING THE BIG TEN CONFERENCEESSAY BY CATHY REESE ’98
I was shocked and worried when I first heard that Maryland was leaving the Atlantic Coast Conference for the Big Ten.
It was November 2012 when I got the phone call from former athletic director Kevin Anderson, and my immediate reaction was, “Oh my gosh, where is this taking us?” Not only was the ACC the premier conference for women’s lacrosse, but the Big Ten didn’t have enough teams for a tournament—something that would have made scheduling and our path to national championships much trickier.
But as the news sunk in (and new teams were added to make a full women’s lacrosse conference), I started being the one who told our alums that everything was going to be OK.
Change is hard. Maryland alums and fans grew up with ACC teams like Duke and North Carolina, and now we’re all getting used to playing Michigan State and Iowa. But for our program, we weren’t leaving all that history and success behind—we were taking our then-11 national championships with us.
And there was a formidable new rival waiting in the Midwest as well. Northwestern, our opponent in the 2010 and 2011 national championship games, had won seven titles of their own.
What really sealed the deal in my eyes was the first time one of our games was highlighted on the Big Ten Network. After getting a great win against Northwestern, I saw that I had received dozens of text messages from alums all across the United States and as far away as Australia who had watched the game from afar, something they and other fans could never do before. I remember thinking, “This is something that’s going to be pretty powerful.”
All of our sports have seen the benefits of the competition and exposure from Big Ten membership, with nearly 400 televised athletic events on the network between 2014 and 2019. It’s a foundation for our new campaign to update and transform sports facilities across all of Maryland Athletics, and provides a powerful voice on the national stage.
New fans are growing up in a new era. Our student-athletes want to compete to be the best they can be, and they know they can do that in the Big Ten Conference.
Cathy Reese ’98 won four national titles as an attacker for the Terps and three as an assistant coach and has led Maryland to 11 consecutive final fours and five championships as head coach since 2007.
BUILDING A GREATER COLLEGE PARK, TOGETHERESSAY BY RUSHERN BAKER III
When Wallace Loh came to the University of Maryland in 2010, I was told by my late friend Wayne Curry, one of my predecessors as Prince George’s County executive, that I had to meet him.
“He’s different,” Curry said. “He gets it.”
I was skeptical at first. UMD had often been its own island in the county, a great university that had a lot of talent, but ultimately a place with resources not at your disposal. Yet after going to dinner with Dr. Loh and County Executive Curry—a meal that lasted more than three hours—I could tell that things really would be different.
First and foremost, Dr. Loh said that he would be buying a home in Prince George’s County. That just spoke volumes, as a statement of belief in the neighborhood and that he wasn’t just passing through. It went a long way with trust.
Then not long afterward, when I approached him to support the concept of the Purple Line, he immediately came aboard. That set the tone for our relationship: a trustworthy leader who understood that UMD and the surrounding area have to work together in partnership.
The most dramatic example of this is the success of the Greater College Park initiative. I was always frustrated that we had this major thoroughfare and nothing was happening. I wanted to see people eating outside in Prince George’s County. Now, Route 1 is no longer Route 1—it’s Baltimore Avenue. It looks totally different, and it’s directly tied to Dr. Loh coming here.
And those are just the visible things. I’m a proud graduate of Howard University, but plenty of University of Maryland graduates filled the top posts in my administration. Dr. Loh opened up the talent in terms of the professors and the students, and the amount of jobs created in the area skyrocketed. When I went on economic development trips to China and India, I would always circle the location of UMD for the hosts. I started going to Terps basketball and football games. I felt like a Terp.
I feel very confident the structure is firm now. These commitments are long-term and changes are not going to stop. When I started as county executive, the house was on fire and I needed a bucket of water. Dr. Loh immediately grabbed the bucket.
He’s somebody I will always consider a personal friend.
Rushern L. Baker III is president and CEO of the Baker Strategy Group and is creating a national executive leadership training program for local government officials with the UMD School of Public Policy. He served in the Maryland House of Delegates (1994-2003) and as county executive of Prince George’s County (2010-18).
SPURRING STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT
INVESTING IN THE ARTS
SPARKING THE DO GOOD SPIRITESSAY BY KAREN LEVENSON ’76
The rise of the Do Good campus during the 10 years that Dr. Wallace Loh has been president may well turn out to be his most lasting legacy.
For many years I worked with high school students in a hands-on program that taught them the importance of educated philanthropy. That work led my husband and me to approach my alma mater, the University of Maryland, with an idea that had a two-pronged mission.
We wanted to launch a program that would: 1. educate and empower future social innovators and nonprofit leaders through undergraduate and graduate curriculum; and 2. create courses and experiences for the entire campus so that every UMD student graduates informed and motivated to go into their communities and do good.
I’ll never forget our first meeting to present our idea to Dr. Loh. He was immediately all in, saying he wanted this idea of students doing good in addition to doing well to be a key pillar in a University of Maryland education.
From that moment on, Dr. Loh took the lead in pushing for the launch of the Do Good Institute and America’s first Do Good campus. He’s advocated for significant private funds to pay for staff and endow several professorships, and he joined my husband and me to lobby the state legislature for $20 million for a new building that recently broke ground to house the Do Good Institute.
And, importantly, he played the lead role in encouraging students and faculty across virtually every college on campus, from aspiring engineers to business majors, to get involved. The results have been extraordinary. Thanks to Dr. Loh’s leadership, we have student-led initiatives: packaging millions of meals for the hungry; opening dental clinics in Honduras; reclaiming expired but still perfectly good medicines and providing them to those in need; repurposing thousands of tons of bruised fruit every year that would otherwise go to waste; and hundreds of other student efforts to do good on our campus, in our community and around the world.
I have yet to come across a student who doesn’t say this is transformational. Every year, more courses are being added and more students are graduating and going on to do good in their communities and beyond.
We’ve been lucky to have had Dr. Loh as our partner over these first 10 years, and we look forward to working with Dr. Darryll Pines when he begins his appointment in July!
Karen Levenson ’76 is an educator, trustee with the University of Maryland College Park Foundation and co-chair of Fearless Ideas: The Campaign for Maryland.
ENERGIZING ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND INNOVATIONESSAY BY EVAN LUTZ ’14
My whole life I was interested in social entrepreneurship—combining business with an impact. I wanted to make as much of a difference as possible.
I also wanted to go to Maryland. My grandmother, parents, and aunts and uncles went to UMD, and I’ve cheered on the Terps since I was a 9-year old watching them win the 2002 NCAA basketball championship.
Everything came together in the 2014 Do Good Challenge. I had already started Hungry Harvest, a delivery service aiming to save “ugly” surplus produce and reduce food waste, in my dorm basement as part of a Social Innovation Fellows program in the Smith School. But being on stage and pitching my idea to an audience of 500 people was a completely new experience.
I remember being aware of how much energy I had. I really wasn’t nervous—the first time in my life I had felt that way during a big presentation. I thought, “This is what I’m built for.”
Since then, I’ve seen both my own business and the idea of doing good as an entrepreneur take off at UMD. Less than a year after we started, the long days and nights selling produce in front of Stamp Student Union and knocking on doors in D.C. led to a $100,000 boost from an investor on ABC’s reality show “Shark Tank.” Today, we have a team of 60 employees spread over nine states who have so far prevented 20 million pounds of food from being wasted.
UMD is putting resources and people into these ideas, with initiatives like the Do Good Institute and Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship. Businesses can engineer themselves so making sales is making impact—one goes up, the other goes up automatically. That’s really compelling.
I love talking to students. I can relate to what they are going through, and I’m still learning as well. Entrepreneurship should not feel like an exclusive club. All it takes is being resilient and willing to learn, and the University of Maryland is creating an environment around that.
Evan Lutz ’14 is CEO and founder of Baltimore-based Hungry Harvest, which delivers boxes of produce to customers and donates to nonprofits addressing hunger.
SERVING THE STATEESSAY BY AMITABH VARSHNEY
When you think of computer science, the first things that spring to mind are probably not opioid addiction and trauma care. Yet, about seven years ago, my research veered from visualizing plasma turbulence and molecular surfaces and toward analyzing mild traumatic brain injuries and using virtual and augmented reality to guide ultrasounds in the emergency room and provide non-opioid pain management.
The reason for this shift was simple: the MPowering the State initiative. This strategic partnership was signed in 2012 by University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) President Wallace D. Loh and former University of
Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) President Jay Perman (now the University System of Maryland chancellor). The powerful idea behind it was to leverage the complementary strengths of our two campuses for the betterment of the entire state.
I’ll be honest. I had been a computer science faculty member at UMCP since 2000 and had never collaborated with anyone at UMB before MPower came along.
During the initiative’s first year, I helped create the Center for Health-Related Informatics and Bioimaging to accelerate advances in personalized medicine in key areas like Parkinson’s disease, cancer, autism and diabetes. The center combines the advanced computing knowledge at UMCP with the clinical expertise in UMB’s School of Medicine.
More recently, I helped launch the Maryland Blended Reality Center with physicians from the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. We are developing immersive training modules for medical professionals, law enforcement, the performing arts and more. In addition to funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, we recently received a philanthropic gift from the Edward St. John Foundation to use immersive visualization technology to train emergency medical professionals to quickly and safely perform a limb-saving procedure called a fasciotomy. In the future, medical personnel—first in Maryland and then elsewhere—will be able to save more limbs and more lives.
From where I stand, MPower has been a rousing success. On a personal level, this initiative has allowed me to have a greater impact on the state, and even the world, through my research. On a campus level, our universities had only one joint research proposal awarded before this initiative. Since then, 600 joint proposals have yielded $204 million in research grants.
MPower is one example of an ethic of service to the state of Maryland that has been on the rise at our university. This ethic calls us to educate the future workforce, conduct research to benefit society, strengthen the economy and boost the quality of life for residents. The following are just a few of the threads in that broad tapestry of service:
- Partnering with farmers, businesses and communities around Maryland to develop new sources of income, fight rural opioid addiction and protect our natural resources.
- Fighting human trafficking in our region and caring for survivors through the University of Maryland SAFE (Support, Advocacy, Freedom, and Empowerment) Center.
- Supporting entrepreneurs and connecting them with funding and technical expertise to build the region’s innovation economy. Our Discovery District is a growing hub for innovative companies and research-based government agencies alike, with positive impacts across the campus and far beyond.
- Graduating highly skilled students in disciplines ranging from computer science to the arts and from bioengineering to education. We are ensuring that businesses, from startup to well-established, continue to plant roots in our region.
If we had all day (and the entire magazine), I could tell you about many more examples. I’m proud to contribute to this effort, and I can’t wait to see what this growing, collaborative spirit of service accomplishes next.
Amitabh Varshney is dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences and a professor of computer science.
REACHING NEW HEIGHTS IN FUNDRAISINGESSAY BY ALMA G. GILDENHORN ’53
Every once in a lifetime, you receive a gift that changes your life.
My gift was a scholarship to the University of Maryland. Arriving at College Park, I felt a whole new world had opened for me. The gratitude that I felt on that day has never left me.
At Maryland, I thrived and grew in so many ways. I was absorbed in my studies, made new friends and became involved in campus activities. My intellect was challenged, and my ability to function on my own in a diverse environment helped me to mature.
Appreciation, gratitude, opportunities—these were more than just words to me. They were positive motivators. I worked hard to excel and graduated first in my class from the College of Education. I was elected president of the Association of Women Students and served on the board of the Student Government Association. Most importantly, I met my wonderful husband, Joe, a lifelong Terp!
Life skills, learned and honed during my time at Maryland, prepared me to express gratitude through service and philanthropy in my community. The University of Maryland was my first priority.
Supporting Maryland has brought my husband and me great joy. Together, we both believe that to whom much is given, much is expected. We give back to “give forward.” The future of our great university depends on leadership, innovation, intellectual pursuit, creativity and philanthropic support. “Giving forward” guarantees our future endeavors and enables us to attract our greatest asset, our students.
Regent Scholarships, the Gildenhorn Recital Hall, and the Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies are examples of our commitment to our alma mater.
I have had the honor and privilege of co-chairing three campaigns. Presently, we are striving to complete the $1.5 billion Fearless Ideas: The Campaign for Maryland. Through this ambitious effort, we’ve seen the fruits of Dr. Wallace Loh’s vision come to life. In addition to attracting great faculty, creating state-of-the-art facilities and funding scholarships, he has understood the importance of revitalizing and reintegrating the Greater College Park community to benefit generations to come.
I can say with certainty that Dr. Loh wholeheartedly believes in the upward trajectory of our great research university. At every opportunity, he has represented Maryland with dignity, civility and humanity, and he has inspired others to support the university’s Fearless Ideas. Dr. Loh has expanded and strengthened our philanthropic enterprise, a tremendous legacy that will live on at Maryland. Go Terps!
Alma G. Gildenhorn ’53 is a philanthropist and co-chair of UMD’s current Fearless Ideas and previous Great Expectations fundraising campaigns. She also chaired the campaign to build the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.
CREATING A DIVERSE, INCLUSIVE MARYLAND
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