Dr. Bowling Prepares for Presidential Interim Position, Discusses Administration

On April 10, Dr. William Kirwan, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, appointed FSU’s Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Tom Bowling as the interim president of the institution.

The appointment of an interim president is one of the first steps that the university and system are required to take in light of the departure of FSU’s outgoing president, Dr. Jonathan Gibralter.

Dr. Bowling, whose service to FSU stretches back to 1976, over a decade before Frostburg State College would receive its university status, was notified of his appointment on April 7 when he received a call from the USM chancellor. Bowling said that he wasn’t anticipating the appointment and that it “wasn’t on [his] radar.”

As interim president, Dr. Bowling will be the chief administrative officer and perform the duties typical of any other university president. He will not, however, be actively involved in the search for a permanent presidential replacement. Additionally, Dr. Bowling will not hold on a seat on the Presidential Search Committee, the members of which he expects to be announced by the newly-appointed Chancellor Caret within the next week or two.

Dr. Bowling’s office tenure as interim president will not begin until July 1. Until then, he is in the process of meeting with Dr. Gibralter on a weekly basis, to work through the precise expectations of the presidency. Bowling is easing into the role already, gathering information and acclimating himself to the position. As a current high-profile administrator on campus, Dr. Bowling is intimately familiar with the administrative organization of higher education. Yet, any change in position will require some amount of training.

The appointment will require Dr. Bowling to move from his office within the Student and Education Services enclave on the first floor of the Hitchins Administrative Building to the Office of the President on the second floor of the building. Additionally, a temporary replacement is expected to be required to fill in for Dr. Bowling’s current position as Vice President for Student Affairs.

Concerning a permanent president, Dr. Bowling expects the appointment to occur during the school year. This is somewhat different from the previous presidential transition, when former Provost and current Political Science professor Dr. Steve Simpson served as interim president for (essentially) the month of July. However, Dr. Simpson’s rather short-lived tenure was due to the early announcement of retirement on the part of President Catherine Gira, which allowed an early search for a replacement. Dr. Gibralter’s decision of departure occurred much later in the school year, allowing less time for preparation.

Consequently, Dr. Bowling’s tenure as interim-president will likely last a minimum of six months, throughout the fall semester, and a maximum of a full academic year. This rather substantial amount of time will give Dr. Bowling the chance to genuinely administer the campus during the academic year and possibly pursue administrative initiatives of his own. When asked what he hopes to accomplish, Dr. Bowling cites the current fiscal “challenge” as the likely focus of his administration; he expects his time as interim president to largely consist of “getting a handle on what to anticipate in terms of the budget” and determining “how to best educate the campus about these [economic] realities.”

The timeline for the presidential appointment begins with the impending announcement of the composition of the Presidential Search Committee, which will be comprised of members of the faculty and staff, as well as the community. Applications for the position will be due in early fall, with telephone interviews hopefully occurring during the first part of the second semester. The search will conclude with final candidates meeting with University System officials and visiting the campus.

Appointments to the position of an interim president are sometimes historically made with the explicit stipulation that the individual not be eligible for the permanent position of the presidency. In Dr. Bowling’s particular case, however, no such stipulation was made.

Dr. Bowling stated that he looks forward to his opportunity to lead the campus. Concerning the budgetary challenges, Dr. Bowling stressed solidarity, stating: “in tough fiscal times, it’s important for us, as a community, to realize that we’re all in this together.”

The campus-wide response to Dr. Bowling’s appointment has been overwhelmingly positive. When asked about the response, Dr. Bowling acknowledged that he feels “very gratified by the amount of support received.”

As the current semester creeps to a close and the community prepares to bid goodbye to President Jonathan Gibralter, the campus can look forward to the administration of Dr. Tom Bowling, which, if history is any indicator, promises success.

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