A Popular College President

A Popular College President

Photo credit: John T. Consoli/University of Maryland

Looking back on his days as a student at Michigan, University of Maryland President Wallace Loh has a lot of great memories—and perhaps one not-so-fond recollection.

Loh, PhD’71, recalled Michigan’s “amazing faculty” being very accessible and supportive. He remembered meeting fellow students from all over the country and the world, many with whom he has stayed in touch. He reminisced about going with carloads of U-M students to peace demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and, as a teaching assistant, taking students there to participate in the Poor People’s Campaign after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.

Oh, and that not-so-memorable incident?

Loh bought his first car while at U-M, “an old Opel for $25, which stalled and died on State Street, blocking traffic, one day after I bought it.”

The car calamity notwithstanding, Loh—who became Maryland’s president in 2010—said his time at U-M influences him still. More specifically, he sites U-M’s “relentless commitment to academic excellence.” Likewise, he said U-M President Mary Sue Coleman—with whom he shares a spot on Glassdoor.com’s “10 Most Popular U.S. College Presidents” list—has influenced him in his current role.

“We were students together at Grinnell (College), and she always stood out as a leader,” Loh said. “I came to the University of Iowa as provost a few years after she left as president there to go to Michigan, but she left a legacy of excellence that continues to be an inspiration to everyone. And I appreciated her strong support for Maryland joining the Big Ten.”

Maryland, and Loh, made big news in November when it accepted an invitation to join the Big Ten conference. As a charter member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, Loh quipped he is probably now “the least popular president in the country among the legions of ACC fans.” He called the move “a watershed moment for the University of Maryland” and says it guarantees the long-term viability of the school’s athletic department, which had to cut seven varsity sports two years ago due to a budget deficit.

The Maryland Terrapins (named for a kind of turtle) will officially start Big Ten play in 2014. It is not known when the Terps will make their first trip to Michigan for a football game. Whatever the date, it will be the first time Loh will see the Wolverines play at Michigan Stadium.

As a penniless doctoral student, Loh says he couldn’t afford football tickets, so he has never stepped foot inside the Big House for a game. “But I did go once—invited by my faculty adviser—to ‘the House That Cazzie Built,’” he said, referring to Crisler Arena. “A great game against the Boilermakers. I think we lost because (Purdue’s) Ricky Mount scored every time he had the ball.”

Loh is excited about that first football matchup between the Terps and Wolverines. And just in case you might think Loh, due to his Michigan degree, has just a bit of Maize and Blue blood still coursing through his veins, guess again.

“When I lived in Ann Arbor, I could hear the distant roar of the crowd from my apartment,” he said. “Now, when I finally get to go to the Big House on the day the Terps are there, I want to experience what it’s like being there with 100,000-plus fans and the deafening noise.

“It will be the sound of the Wolverines learning to ‘Fear the Turtle.’”

By Dan Shine

Photo: Wallace Loh meets with University of Maryland students at the Honors College Ice Cream Social. (Photo credit: John T. Consoli/University of Maryland)

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