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July 26, 2001

Bradford’s president to step down

Richard E. McDowell, president of Pitt's Bradford campus since 1973, announced last week that he will step down from that position next June.

Following a sabbatical in 2002, McDowell will teach in the biology department at Bradford and work to expand the programs of Pitt-Bradford's Allegheny Institute of Natural History, which he helped found in 1999.

McDowell told Pitt-Bradford's faculty and staff July 19 that he had been planning to step down for some time but wanted to wait until the college was on strong footing and moving in a positive direction.

"I did not make this decision lightly," McDowell told the University Times. "I've been fortunate to be in this position that I've enjoyed so much. We have a friendly, committed faculty and staff here, a real community of learners with whom I've had a wonderful relationship." He said that Pitt-Bradford was in solid financial shape and that he felt now was a good time to step down. He added that he was looking forward to returning to the classroom to teach biology.

McDowell pointed specifically to the "creative partnership of public and private support" Pitt-Bradford has enjoyed over many years. "We've really been blessed with private giving, state appropriations and sustained federal dollars," he said. "For example, the several million dollar grant [in 1982] under Title III we got put us in the mainstream of higher education. It helped us jump-start our four-year programs."

During his tenure as president, the regional campus has gone from a two-year institution to a four-year degree-granting college and has tripled its enrollment to 1,200 students. Pitt-Bradford now offers 23 baccalaureate degrees and 12 professional programs.

The college's division of outreach services also offers noncredit certificate and for-credit programs, and cooperates in operating three off-campus centers in northwestern Pennsylvania.

Recently, Pitt-Bradford unveiled its "Complete the Campus" initiative, which will add several buildings and more than 139,500 square feet of space. UPB completed a new facilities management building in 2000 and expects to complete a $9.3 million addition to its Sports Center by fall 2002. Architectural planning is underway for Blaisdell Hall, the campus's fine arts building. This June, Pitt's Board of Trustees approved a $9.5 million expansion and renovation of the Frame-Westerberg Commons, the college's student center.

"I didn't do this all by myself," McDowell said. "First, we have a really cooperative faculty and staff who work for the common good of the college and the community. We also have tremendous support from Chancellor [Mark] Nordenberg, Provost Jim Maher, and Vice Provost Robert Pack and our advisory and alumni boards," he noted. "With that support we have been able to bring Pitt-Bradford to a new level of academic excellence."

Provost Maher said he accepted McDowell's resignation with regret. "Dr. McDowell's contributions to the University of Pittsburgh are inestimable. His efforts have helped Pitt-Bradford expand its academic offerings while enhancing their quality. Several buildings on campus have undergone major renovations and improvements in the past few years, and expansion of administration and academic facilities will continue."

Chancellor Nordenberg said that McDowell's "outstanding professional abilities and warm human touch have made him one of the most respected and best liked people in the entire University.

"Perhaps President McDo-well's greatest triumph, though, has been the development of a strong, enthusiastic and energetic faculty, staff and advisory board who have worked in creative and committed ways to move the campus and its home community forward," he added.

Judge John M. Cleland, chairman of Pitt-Bradford's advisory board, said, "One cannot look around this campus without recognizing Dick's leadership in making Pitt-Bradford the wonderful institution it is. But perhaps the best example of his leadership is how he has positioned the campus to continue to grow and develop under the guidance of a new president."

McDowell is Bradford's second president, succeeding Donald E. Swarts, who served as president from its founding in 1963 to 1973, when McDowell, at age 29, became the youngest college president in the country.

A Bradford native, McDowell earned a bachelor's degree in biology (1965) from High Point College in High Point, N. C., and a master's (1967) and Ph.D. (1970) in biology from St. Louis University. High Point College awarded him an honorary degree in 1996.

McDowell also spent two years doing post-doctoral research in developmental biology at Argonne National Laboratories in Chicago.

McDowell began his career at Pitt-Bradford in 1970 as assistant professor of biology and dean of admissions. In 1971, he was appointed administrative assistant for academic affairs, before assuming the college's presidency in July 1973.

A search committee is expected to be named in the coming weeks with the charge of identifying McDowell's successor by summer 2002.

–Peter Hart

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