A New Status for State Schools

Could Pat Harker’s Path to Prominence be a reason to unite Delaware’s public institutions of higher learning?

Years ago, I asked an intern from Long Island why she and so many of her neighbors chose to attend the University of Delaware. In so many words, their high school guidance counselors saw UD as providing an excellent education at a bargain price in a place that was far enough away to instill a feeling of independence, but not too far to be inconvenient.

That made sense to me then, and given the vast amount of time the explanation has perked in my brain, it makes even more sense now.

UD sits a short hop from I-95 between the most densely populated areas of the country. For president Pat Harker, that must seem like a dream location. As you’ll read in Jim Waltzer’s story “Engineering UD’s Future” (page 60), Harker has embarked on the so-called Path to Prominence; based on his belief that the university’s performance justifies an international reputation for excellence, he wants to raise its profile.

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Speaking as a proud Blue Hen, that seems a worthy endeavor. In my time at school, I witnessed beloved president Art Trabant retire twice, Russel Jones make a false start and David Roselle undertake an unprecedented effort to modernize. But until Harker, I hadn’t seen such a well-formed idea emerge so quickly.

Indeed, all our institutions of higher learning, public and private, have made great strides over the past two decades. Each has found a niche it serves well and has grown as a result, with a couple former colleges achieving university accreditation. We have every reason to be proud.

So, given the size of the state, the proximity of its schools, the diversity of academic offerings and other factors, I’d suggest that a state university system (UD, DelState and DelTech) may not be a bad idea. Such a system could accommodate students of all ages, socioeconomic strata and academic ability.

Yes, it would require a massive restructuring, but it seems a state system could serve all Delawareans better while further positioning the state as a leader in education. Is it worth the effort? I’m not qualified to say, but it does seem worth consideration.

Mark’s Day Book
  • Thanks to Delaware Press Association president Katherine Ward for chatting about the future of media. It came shortly after being interviewed by a UD student journalist on the very same subject. The bottom line: Media may change, but there will always be a need for good journalism.
  • The party for the grand opening of the new i.g. Burton showroom and service facility in Milford was a very nice affair, indeed. Who knew a garage could be so clean? Many thanks to Pete Renzi for the invitation. Paul Cullen rocked the tunes. And kudos to the caterers from Dover Downs for the outstanding food—especially those crab cakes.
  • Speaking of Dover Downs, it was good to see GM George Fiorile at the Stars of Industry dinner at Christiana Hilton. Congratulations to Bill Sullivan of the Courtyard at Marriott in Newark and to all the other honorees. And to whoever chose the wines, I can say only this: Outstanding work.
  • It seems my days at the old Royal Exchange in Pike Creek have caught up with me. In its day, the place produced what would become a pretty accomplished alumni association, with members such as Realtor Eddie Riggin and attorney Claire DeMatteis. So it’s always a fun surprise to run into old acquaintances like, say, Cathie Matthews of the UD during DT’s recent reception in Newark. It was a special pleasure to reconnect with old friends Robert and Connie Wittig. Two weeks later, I find myself reminiscing with GM Paul Rada of the Clarion Bell in New Castle, also an Exchange grad, during a meeting with owner Alan Spiro. Many thanks to Yasmin Bowman for the introduction. And it was a joy to meet operations director Denise McCool. To the Exchange crew: Thanks for the memories.

    It seems like yesterday…


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