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Mount President to step down at conclusion of the 2013-14 academic year

Kelly Conroy
Assistant Editor
MSM Class of 2012

(4/23) Editor’s Note: Without the blessing and support from Dr. Powell, Mount students, who have been so integral to the Emmitsburg News-Journals' evolution into the exceptional community paper it is today, wouldn’t be able to play such a significant role in the paper's creation each month. The Mount staff of the ENJ is extremely grateful to Dr. Powell for giving us the opportunity to be an important part of the local community and develop our communication skills. The staff of the ENJ sends well wishes and much thanks to the Powell’s!

Mount St. Mary’s University President Thomas H. Powell announced that he is stepping down, effective with the conclusion of the 2013-14 academic year.

In a letter to the Mount community, President Powell said, "As I finish 10 years as the President of Mount St. Mary’s University, I have spent considerable time reflecting on my work with you and the future of our University. Like any position, the presidency of a university goes through seasons of beginning, developing, and ending, and then beginning again. It is clear to me that the season of change is here. As a university, we are in a good place to welcome a new President to take the helm and continue moving our beloved Mount forward."

President Powell was appointed the Mount’s 24th President in 2003. During his tenure, Mount St. Mary’s University experienced unprecedented growth and success. In recent years, the University achieved record-breaking student enrollment, an extensive renovation of the historic Terrace Residence Halls and the Delaplaine Fine Arts Center, along with the construction of the new Bicentennial Residence Hall. In 2008, the University celebrated its Bicentennial and recently completed the Generations capital campaign, the largest campaign in its history.

President Powell led the institution’s designation change from college to university status, as well as an academic re-organization. The Mount continues to grow its undergraduate and graduate programs, and the Veritas Program common curriculum and Institute for Leadership are recognized as national models in liberal arts education.

"The Board of Trustees is unanimous in its support and admiration of President Powell and all he has accomplished," said Board of Trustees Chairman Eugene M. Waldron, Jr. "His leadership, and the momentum we have achieved in our effort to strengthen the Mount, have set a great trajectory for future success. I know I speak on behalf of the entire Mount community in thanking he and his wife, Irene, for their years of service."

A comprehensive national search will begin in June for the Mount’s 25th President, led by Trustee Scott Wilfong and a search committee made up of trustees, faculty, staff, administrators, students, and alumni.

"The 2013-14 academic year promises to be busy and productive as we continue several critical campus projects, prepare for University and Seminary national accreditations, and continue the many objectives outlined in our new strategic plan," said President Powell. "Our next President will see a campus actively engaged in developing and implementing programs to enhance the national reputation of the Mount."


It was the summer of 2009. I had committed to the Mount and was driving from Florida to Maryland with my siblings in a packed minivan to attend Freshmen Orientation. I couldn’t wait.

Dr. Powell was one of the first people I met at Orientation. I was walking into the ARCC to attend an opening session at which Dr. Powell addressed our class. He introduced himself to my family and me. Then, he unpinned a "Mount St. Mary’s President’s Medal" pin from his coat jacket and handed it to my little sister. She thought it was so cool. The President of a University had given attention to her and had even given her a special memento.

That’s just how Dr. Powell and his wife, Irene, are. They are some of the nicest, personable, faith-filled, intelligent, self-giving and fun people I have ever met.

When I started attending the Mount that fall, I ran into Dr. Powell on campus in the first week or two of classes. Again, he was so welcoming and friendly. He even told me to come work in his office if I ever needed a job. I took him up on that offer very quickly! I became one of a number of students who serve as Presidential Interns in Dr. Powell’s office during their time at the Mount. Dr. Powell would always take time to talk to the students working in his office and those on campus to ask us what we like and what we think needs to be improved at the Mount. He was always excited about new ideas and plans for the Mount!

A man named Willie is one of the workers in Dr. Powell’s office. Willie has a great work ethic and a positive attitude. He also has special needs. Dr. Powell and Willie are best friends. If Dr. Powell wasn’t in the office, Willie would always ask when he was getting back. Willie would run to greet Dr. Powell and the two of them would always joke with each other.

"How about those Ravens?" Dr. Powell would ask Willie, knowing that Willie is a passionate Pittsburgh Steeler’s fan.

"Not the Ravens!" Willie would state in protest with a huge smile.

"What about the Browns?" Dr. Powell would ask.

"No…No!" Willie would laugh, "I love the Steelers."

Dr. Powell received his Bachelor of Science and his Masters of Science in Special Education from Montana State University in Billings, Montana in 1976 and 1979. He earned his Ed.D. in Special Education from Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, in 1981. His academic concentrations included teacher education, family intervention, severe disabilities and educational technology. His research has focused on social interaction between children with disabilities and their siblings. Dr. Powell’s love for and talent with those with special disabilities is evident in his studies and his actions.

At Orientation, Dr. and Mrs. Powell gave out their home phone number to the students and their parents. Since that time, I’ve been over to the Powell’s house for dinner on many occasions. They often invite students and student groups on campus to visit—and Mrs. Powell really goes out of her way to make everyone feel comfortable. There are multiple dinners for honors students to hold academic debates at the Powell’s home. At every dinner, Dr. and Mrs. Powell are sure to share at least one or two short stories about the history of the Mount. I’ve learned about the founder of the Mount, Father John Dubois, who fled France to escape religious persecution, and about how Mother Teresa visited the Grotto. I’ve also had friends go fly-fishing with Dr. Powell in the pond behind his house. There are also photos of the Powell’s soaring over campus on the new zipline!

Mrs. Powell is the Mount Family Association Coordinator, and I know my Mom is grateful for the newsletters and prayer memos that Mrs. Powell sends. They definitely help the Mount family across the country stay connected, and they make everyone feel welcome on campus.

One of the qualities that I most admire about the Powell’s is their commitment to Catholicism. They have revitalized the faith on the Mount campus. The number of students attending daily Mass doubled over the last four years. A faith in athletics program was developed. Student-athletes are able to participate in weekly Bible studies and other programs together and discuss how their sports and faith lives are connected. FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missionaries are on campus and hundreds of Mount students attend weekly Bible studies. The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College recommends the Mount. The Grotto Visitor Center was opened, increasing awareness of one of the most sacred spaces in the country.

The Powell’s live out the four pillars of the Mount – faith, discovery, leadership, and community—and offer an example for others to follow.

The Powell’s plan on going to East Timor and Montana after Dr. Powell steps down. East Timor is a place close to the Powell’s hearts. They tried adopting children from an orphanage there, but the government wouldn’t allow it. In Montana, the Powell’s will work with Support and Techniques Empowering People, which provides services to those with developmental disabilities.

Dr. Powell may be leaving the presidency, but we are glad he and his wife aren’t leaving for good! After the sabbatical year, Dr. Powell will return to the Mount as a President Emeritus. He plans on teaching special education courses. I know that if I were still a student, I would sign up early for his classes!

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