Former System Chancellor and University President to be Honored Where Academic Career Began
The University of Maryland today announced that the Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland (USM) has approved the naming of UMD’s Mathematics building in honor of William E. "Brit" Kirwan. His highly distinguished 51-year career in public higher education includes 13 years as USM Chancellor and 35 years at the University of Maryland, where he rose from assistant professor of mathematics to department chair and eventually to UMD president.
The Mathematics building located on Campus Drive will be named William E. Kirwan Hall.
“In the 51 years since Brit Kirwan first set foot in the mathematics building as an assistant professor, he has led the department, the campus and higher education in Maryland to unprecedented levels of distinction,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “It is more than fitting to name this building in his honor, and we do so with great affection.”
Guided by his long-held core belief that higher education plays a critical role in creating a more just and inclusive society, Kirwan has considerably impacted the higher education landscape. Common threads running through his career include his unwavering commitment to excellence and to increasing underrepresented minorities' access to higher education.
“It is difficult to find words to express how much this honor means to me,” said Chancellor Emeritus Kirwan, who is also a professor emeritus in the UMD Department of Mathematics. “Fifty-one years ago last August, I walked into the mathematics building as a newly minted Ph.D. graduate and was in awe of it. The thought that a half century later the building would bear my name would never have occurred to me even in my wildest dreams. My life has come full circle because I am moving back into the building now that I have stepped down as chancellor. I am deeply, deeply appreciative of this very special recognition, which I consider to be the greatest honor I have ever received.”
Kirwan, who currently chairs the Board on Higher Education and Workforce of The National Academies, also co-chairs the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics and serves on the Business-Higher Education Forum. Along with his national and international presentations on key issues, Kirwan has authored many articles on issues in higher education and has been profiled and cited in academic and mainstream publications.
Among the many initiatives Kirwan has championed is USM’s Closing the Achievement Gap initiative launched in 2007 to address the gap in college participation, retention, and graduation rates between low-income students, first-generation college students, and underrepresented minorities, as well as the general student population. As University of Maryland president, his leadership launched UMD’s rise into the top tier of public universities, while also making it one of the most diverse public research universities in the United States.
Kirwan joined the University of Maryland as an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics in 1964. In 1977, he became chair of the math department. Kirwan also served as vice president for academic affairs and provost before serving as president of the University of Maryland for 10 years (1988-1998), president of Ohio State University for four years (1998-2002) and USM chancellor (2002-2015).
In March of this year Kirwan received the 2015 Circle of Discovery award from the University of Maryland's College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences, which honors the college's most notable faculty members and alumni for their visionary leadership and outstanding research. He received the award during the Kirwan Mathematics Festival, a celebration of Kirwan's 50 years as a mathematician.
Writer: Lee Tune
About the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences
The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland educates more than 7,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college's 10 departments and more than a dozen interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $150 million.