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Reprinted from: Green Bay Press-Gazette

February 7, 2001

Perkins leaves UWGB for Towson

Chancellor helped improve, expand university facilities

By Kelley Bruss

GREEN BAY -- Faculty leaders hope the momentum generated during Chancellor Mark Perkins' seven years at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay will continue after he leaves this summer to take the presidency at a Maryland university.

"Mark, I think, had enough guts for us to go ahead and recognize what's wrong here and how to fix it," said Jeff Entwistle, a professor in communication and the arts and chair of the University Committee, the executive body of the Faculty Senate. "It was very bold on his part to make us go through that."

Entwistle said the campus "treaded water" for several years before Perkins arrived, and no matter what people thought of the chancellor as a scholar or a leader, "he got some energy going here."

Perkins, 51, was in Maryland on Tuesday when Towson University, part of the University System of Maryland, announced he will be its next president. Perkins will take over July 1; Hoke Smith is retiring June 30 after 22 years as president.

Perkins said Towson has many of the same goals and ideals as UWGB and he'll be comfortable leading there. He also has family reasons to move back East.

"Very frankly, I've been away from my mother, who's 91, and my brothers and sisters for 15 years in my career," he said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "It's an opportunity for us to have a family life again."

Entwistle and others said Tuesday that Perkins helped UWGB build an identity and set concrete goals.

The chancellor led efforts to improve facilities on campus, including securing funds for a $20 million academic building set to open this fall.

Acting on a challenge faculty members gave him a few years ago, Perkins spearheaded a drive to improve the academic environment at UWGB.

That effort, the Learning Experience Initiative, has been approved by the UW Regents and awaits state budget approval.

Calling himself a "people person," Perkins said he'll miss those he's worked with at UWGB.

"All that we do we've done as a team at the university," he said.

He wasn't ready Tuesday to talk about what kind of successor UWGB will need.

"I'm sad enough about (leaving) and excited enough about this" new job, he said.

Perkins made $148,000 at UWGB this year. He'll make $200,000 at Towson.

UWGB Provost Howard Cohen said the next chancellor will need to be enthusiastic about the course set during Perkins' tenure.

"The outlines of what needs to be done are pretty clear," Cohen said. "We have to turn the vision into reality."

Learning Experience

Faculty leaders Tuesday said their top priority will be not letting the Learning Experience Initiative fall by the wayside with Perkins' departure.

"There's been an awful lot of work in developing this plan," said Faculty Senate Speaker Dave Littig. "We're ready. ... We want to carry that forward."

The Learning Experience Initiative has five key focuses: high-impact first contact with potential students, personalized learning, competency-based general education, active and integrated learning, and putting learning to work.

Harvey Kaye, a member of the University Committee, said faculty are sold on the initiative and eager to see it in place, particularly so class sizes can be lowered.

"Two years ago, I challenged (Perkins) in the Faculty Senate to do something about academic affairs," Kaye said. "It's now in the budget."

With Perkins fanning the flames, the Learning Experience Initiative and the 21st Century facilities plan has grown into a campuswide passion, Cohen said.

"This is a committed campus and a committed leadership team," he said. "That leadership team will pick (the initiative) up and carry it."

An 'outside chancellor'

Entwistle served on the search and screen committee that helped bring Perkins to UWGB. The committee was looking for an "outside chancellor" who would excel at bolstering the school's image in the public and its position in the UW System.

Perkins helped bring to Green Bay the money for a state-of-the-art new academic building — $20 million — to be completed this fall. He also secured funding for $17 million of renovations to the Laboratory Sciences building.

Besides earning regent approval for the Learning Experience, Perkins also helped get the regents' nod to continue planning for a $60 million expansion to the Phoenix Sports Center. The planning money for the sports center still must be approved by the Legislature and the governor.

"He did shake things up," Littig said. "He was beginning to be very successful with the Board of Regents in Madison."

Perkins fought for the school's share of funding and support from the state.

He first presented the Learning Experience — known then as the Compelling Idea — to the regents in December 1999. The regents generally praised the plans.

"I'm not sure that you couldn't sell refrigerators to Eskimos," regent Jay Smith told Perkins.

"He's the kind of guy who does a great job lobbying and promoting," Kaye said.

A mixed-bag response

Perkins' style has generated mixed reactions throughout his tenure in Green Bay.

Faculty reviews of his work have either been glowing or growling — rarely anywhere in between.

"I've had confrontations with Mark Perkins, but I've always had a fairly good feeling about him," Kaye said. "His agenda worked well with what we needed on campus."

"Some people find Mark very endearing, some people don't buy into the act," Entwistle said. "But if you talk to Mark often enough ... the guy's genuine. He is what you see."

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