Article by Gil Klein
Illustrations by Jason Seiler
Since 1947, six chancellors or presidents have led UMUC or its predecessor, the College of Special and Continuation Studies. Each has helped shape the university in different ways. Here are their stories.
The program that would eventually grow to become University of Maryland University College—one of the largest public universities in the United States—began in the summer of 1947 as part of the University of Maryland (now University of Maryland, College Park).
With military veterans flocking to the university after World War II under the GI Bill, University of Maryland President H. C. "Curley" Byrd began establishing off-campus programs to serve nontraditional students who, because they were working and raising families, could not live or attend classes full time in College Park.
The new operation began as a program within the College of Education, with George G. Kabat serving as director. As it grew, it was soon renamed the College of Special and Continuation Studies, effectively separate from the College of Education, and Kabat was promoted to serve as dean. The new college offered classes in Baltimore, at business and industry sites, at military bases in Maryland and the Pentagon, and in communities around the state, including Cambridge, Cumberland, Hagerstown, Salisbury, and Westminster.
Described by his colleagues as "high energy, a dynamo," Kabat in mid-August 1949 traveled to Germany for 16 days at the invitation of the Defense Department to assess the possibility of establishing an overseas Maryland program. With just a few weeks of lead time, he managed to launch the program that fall. The eight-week term was first introduced to accommodate the large numbers of troops transferring in and out of Europe.
By the time Kabat stepped down in 1950, many of the fundamental constants that would guide UMUC—a commitment to providing educational opportunities for nontraditional students and to educating U.S. military personnel overseas—were already in place.
Joseph Ray replaced Kabat as dean and led the program for another two years, successfully advocating for changes in the military science program offered overseas, which had previously been available only to commissioned officers. By broadening the program to accommodate noncommissioned officers, enlisted personnel, and civilians, the stage was set for some of the college's most dynamic growth—and the rise of one of its most dynamic leaders, William Raymond "Ray" Ehrensberger.
Serving as its first chancellor, Ehrensberger shaped UMUC geographically and philosophically, oversaw its national and international growth, and guided its transformation into an institution independent from the University of Maryland, College Park.
The biographical sketches that follow tell the stories of five men and one woman who have served UMUC as chancellor or president throughout its 70-year history.
Find out why he was called "The Flying Dean." Read more
William Raymond "Ray" Ehrensberger
William Raymond "Ray" Ehrensberger
The legend of William Raymond "Ray" Ehrensberger began to grow long before he became the leader and architect of University of Maryland University College, long before he was dubbed "Big Daddy" and "The Flying Dean" as he circled the globe in search of new opportunities.
Born in Indiana in 1904, he came from humble stock. For two years after graduating high school, he worked as a railroad fireman, shoveling coal into steam engines on the Monon Railroad.
Even as an undergraduate at Wabash College, he continued shoveling coal during the summers and later financed his master's degree at Butler University by working nights on the railroad while attending class during the day.
He gained a reputation as a formidable public speaker, winning forensic contests and debate competitions. After completing his master's degree, he taught at two small Midwestern colleges while coaching orators and debate teams and staging student plays. Some of his students went on to Hollywood careers.
His penchant for travel began early, and in July 1935 he traveled to the Soviet Union to attend a summer session at Moscow University. He hoped to study with Pavlov, and when he determined that he had been misled about the program, he demanded his money back.
He headed east on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, happy to show the Soviets that an American academic could still shovel coal. Crossing into Japanese-controlled Manchuria, he was detained briefly by Japanese officials before taking an armed train to Beijing and Shanghai, by way of territories still controlled by Chinese warlords.
From there, he took a boat to Japan to visit Tokyo and Kyoto and climb Mount Fuji. Finally, he returned to San Francisco in steerage aboard a Japanese liner.
Returning to academia, his momentum never slowed. In the space of a year, he completed the coursework for a PhD at Syracuse University, then joined the faculty of the University of Maryland in the fall of 1936 as an assistant professor in the speech department. Two years later, he became a full professor; one year after that, he was appointed chair. He founded the University Theater and the Speech and Hearing Clinic and even convinced CBS News to set up a full radio studio on the College Park campus.
In 1950, the university president—H. C. "Curley" Byrd—sent Ehrensberger overseas for several months to create an administrative structure for the College of Special and Continuation Studies (CSCS), which had established a fledgling program in Europe. When he finished, Byrd offered him the position of dean. Ehrensberger declined, requesting a leave of absence to work for a U.S. State Department cultural program in Turkey in 1951.
When he was ready to return, Byrd made it contingent on his accepting the deanship of CSCS.
Ehrensberger was described as handsome, extroverted, and irrepressible, and a close associate characterized him as a man "blessed with indefatigable energy and a fertile mind; a raconteur with a vast store of stories . . . ribald tales . . . laced with language that was hardly housebroken; and a true nonconformist and iconoclast."
He had an engaging style and was a man of ideas, a deal maker, a program builder. On the road for months at a time, he traveled the world meeting with military brass and educators as well as with students, faculty, and staff from Iceland to Ethiopia, from Thailand to Taiwan. Even when he was working hardest for the university, he knew how to have fun.
He received three of the top awards bestowed on civilians by the military—one from the Air Force, one from the Army, and one from the U.S. Department of Defense.
By the time he retired as chancellor in 1975, UMUC had become the second-largest institution in the University of Maryland system in terms of the number of students enrolled. He is credited with influencing the direction and progress of adult higher education in the United States during the post-World War II era.
He died in 1997 at the age of 92 in College Park.
Learn why Drazek was credited as "one of the college's main workhorses." Read more
Even though Stanley J. Drazek was the polar opposite of his predecessor—the colorful and high-flying Ray Ehrensberger—the two of them worked so well together that they were able to expand UMUC into a true force in adult higher education.
When Ehrensberger retired in 1975, Drazek immediately took over as chancellor. But his work with the university dated back almost to its inception.
Born and raised in Hagaman, New York, Drazek earned a bachelor's degree in 1941 from the State University of New York at Oswego before enlisting in the Army Air Corps during World War II.
After the war, he came to the University of Maryland on a research fellowship, earning a master's degree in 1947 and a doctorate in industrial education in 1950.
George Kabat—then dean of the College of Special and Continuation Studies—hired Drazek in 1948, while he was still working on his doctorate, to serve as the first full-time director of the college's Baltimore division. He administered programs in and around the city, including the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Army Chemical Center at Edgewood, and the United States Naval Academy Graduate Program.
Joseph Ray—who took over as dean of CSCS when Kabat stepped down—brought Drazek back to College Park to help administer the new and growing program as assistant dean. When Ehrensberger took the helm, he promoted Drazek to vice chancellor.
In personality and management style, Drazek and Ehrensberger were stark opposites. Ehrensberger was the visionary and socializer, but Drazek was the anchor. While Ehrensberger traveled the globe, Drazek handled day-to-day operations.
Quiet, soft-spoken, and meticulous about details, Drazek was known as an excellent organizer who established a good rapport with university administrators and education professionals across the country.
In 1957, the CSCS newspaper, the Marylander, headlined Drazek as, "One of the college's main workhorses."
Stepping into the chancellor's position upon Ehrensberger's retirement, Drazek was able to maintain his predecessor's momentum. In his own low-key way, he was as responsible as his more flamboyant compatriot for shaping the university.
When he retired three years later for health reasons, he and Ehrensberger were lauded as giants of UMUC's formative years, and his departure signaled the end of an era as a new leadership team stepped in to replace the founding generation.
T. Benjamin Massey, who succeeded Drazek as president of UMUC, summarized his contributions to the university and to all of higher education.
"Dr. Drazek's leadership in adult higher educated resulted in greatly increased opportunities for a group of individuals who used to be considered nontraditional students," said Massey.
"As a result of those efforts, we have seen a shift in the definition of a college student, and today adults who study part-time are the majority. Stan Drazek made that possible."
Drazek died in 1996.
Discover Massey's proudest achievement. Read more
T. Benjamin Massey
T. Benjamin Massey
Like his predecessor, Stanley Drazek, T. Benjamin Massey devoted almost his entire academic career to University of Maryland University College, first as an administrator in Europe, Asia, and Maryland before assuming the role of president in 1978.
A soft-spoken Southerner, Massey was born September 5, 1926, in Charlotte, North Carolina. He earned a bachelor's degree in psychology at Duke University—taking time off to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II—then completed a master's degree at North Carolina State University.
He served as Georgia Tech's associate dean of students before moving to England as a civilian Education Services Officer at U.S. Air Force bases before joining UMUC in 1960. He completed his PhD at Cambridge in 1968.
"In those days, we moved every eight weeks so that we taught an eight-week term in this location and then moved to teach in another location for eight weeks," Massey recalled in a 2014 interview. "What made it great was you had the opportunity to see a number of places and to move to places you had never seen."
He was teaching in Germany when the Berlin Wall went up in 1961, and he recalled how classes served as a kind of release for soldiers during those tense times, offering a setting where they could shed their worries and focus on learning about subjects that interested them.
Massey was soon appointed European Division director for the United Kingdom, then director of the entire division, then director of the Asian Division, headquartered in Japan.
Known for his work ethic and attention to detail, Massey was thoroughly familiar with UMUC's stateside programs as well as the university's military and international components when he assumed the presidency in 1978.
Interested in new ideas, he was quick to see the possibilities of new technologies and their application to higher education, which positioned him to modernize the institution and lead it in new directions.
While UMUC already had a well diversified set of programs when he assumed the presidency, Massey diversified it even more. The university became known not just for the scope of its programs, but also for the creative ways in which those programs responded to societal and individual needs.
The overseas programs continued to grow during Massey's tenure, with total enrollments increasing by 50 percent and programs offered at some 250 locations in 22 countries. In the United States alone, courses were offered at 20 locations across Maryland; the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area; and at distance education sites across the country.
Under Massey's leadership, the university established its experiential learning program, its cooperative education program, and its Graduate School. It continued to innovate with popular distance education programs in fields like fire science and nuclear science, and broke new ground with a historic joint degree program with Irkutsk State University and Far Eastern State University in post-Soviet Russia.
Even when the Internet was new to most, Massey moved quickly to incorporate it into distance learning, and later said, "The single achievement of which I am most happy is moving into online learning."
Massey retired in 1998 and moved back to North Carolina, where he died in December 2015.
Learn how Heeger expanded distance education around the world. Read more
Gerald Heeger was a newcomer to UMUC when he was tapped in the summer of 1999 to lead the institution.
Born in Ohio in 1942 and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, Heeger earned his bachelor's degree at the University of California at Berkeley and both his master's and PhD in political science from the University of Chicago.
He was a specialist in south Asian political development and studied in India on a Fulbright scholarship, later serving as a Fulbright-Hayes senior faculty research fellow in Pakistan.
After teaching in the Woodrow Wilson Department of Government and Foreign Affairs at the University of Virginia, he was appointed dean of University College at Adelphi University in New York in 1980, rising to provost and executive vice president before stepping down in 1987.
His next stop was the New School of Social Research in New York, where be became dean before accepting the position of dean of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at New York University in 1991. There, he oversaw an enrollment of 60,000 students and established NYUonline—the first for-profit subsidiary of a major university—to market online education.
In accepting the presidency, Heeger acknowledged that UMUC was the "international leader" in online education—at the time, some 6,000 students were enrolled in online classes—and he explained his interest in UMUC in the context of the changing demography of higher education.
"There are more and more adults, nontraditional students, in the ages of 30, 35, 40 pursuing master's degrees," he said. "UMUC has been a major leader in providing this education. Demands for this kind of education are only going to grow."
Heeger took a corporate approach to running the university, with the goal of modernizing and streamlining its structure for the 21st century.
Since its inception, UMUC had in effect operated as three universities—one in Europe, one in Asia, and one in Maryland. Recognizing the inherent inefficiencies in that structure in the age of online classes, Heeger envisioned restructuring UMUC as one university with one academic identity, a centralized administrative system, a single academic calendar, standardized curricula and course syllabi, and a seamless transfer of course credits from one division to another.
"We are everywhere," Heeger said in describing how UMUC differed from a standard research university. "We're geographically dispersed; we're dispersed on the Internet; students can gain access from any place. We select our faculty on the premise that expertise is now society-wide. We identify expertise and work with intellectual leadership where it is."
In 2004, he instituted a five-year strategic plan, built around the premise that the university must continue to grow to preserve its fiscal viability. In order to grow, it must differentiate itself through the excellence of its academic offerings, student services, and innovative use of technology. In the mission statement, Heeger said UMUC "is the open university of the state of Maryland and the United States."
The plan called for assessing student learning outcomes and improved online services for students to accompany the academic programs. He established the office of provost to oversee faculty employment and the undergraduate and graduate schools. Focusing on stateside programs, the number of part-time and full-time faculty teaching in the United States more than doubled, to almost 1,600.
In 2005, Heeger announced he was leaving UMUC to head an initiative at a private equity firm to create a new for-profit international university system.
His legacy at UMUC included not only rapid expansion of distance education around the world, but also the improvement of UMUC's reputation at home and repositioning its image both nationally and internationally as a high-quality educational institution.
In 2006 he was named to the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame at the University of Oklahoma.
Learn about UMUC's first woman president. Read more
Susan C. Aldridge
Susan C. Aldridge
To succeed Gerald Heeger, the university appointed the first woman to hold the top position at UMUC—Susan C. Aldridge.
Like Heeger, Aldridge was a newcomer to UMUC, although not to higher education. She assumed the presidency in 2006 after serving most recently as vice chancellor of University College and the eCampus at Troy University (formerly Troy State University) in Alabama—the second-largest distance learning program at a public university. Only UMUC was larger.
As vice chancellor at Troy, Aldridge had served as chief executive officer of the university's graduate and undergraduate programs outside of Alabama, operating in 17 states and 14 countries. She had come to Troy in 1995 as an adjunct professor, teaching graduate courses in business, health administration, health policy, and organizational behavior and theory.
Aldridge began her academic career as an undergraduate at the Colorado Women's College, where she completed her bachelor's degree in sociology and psychology in 1977.
While completing a master's degree and PhD in public administration at the University of Colorado at Denver, she worked for the Denver Regional Council of Governments as a planner and division director. She also served as vice president of World Marketing, Inc., a firm engaged in developing and managing national and international education programs.
After completing her PhD in 1991, Aldridge joined the faculty at the National University of Singapore and lectured on organization, management, and policy at Hong Kong University before joining Troy University.
As she rose through the ranks at Troy, she pursued her interest in global education and distance learning by serving on the Alabama Governor's Distance Learning Task Force and the Alabama World Trade Organization Board; on the board of the International Association of Business Disciplines; as U.S. chair of the 2006 U.S–China Forum on Distance Education; and as co-chair of the 2005 U.S. Department of Defense Task Force on Distance Learning Standards.
After accepting the UMUC presidency, Aldridge faced a number of challenges, including significant budgetary shortfalls and operating deficits that underscored the importance of recruiting. The university needed to enroll some 9,000 new students to meet growth targets set by the governor, state legislature, and the University System of Maryland Board of Regents.
Aldridge responded by mobilizing a university-wide enrollment drive among employees and alumni in 2006, meeting and exceeding that year's enrollment targets in the space of six months—and meeting the following year's goals, as well.
When Aldridge stepped down in 2012, University System of Maryland Chancellor Brit Kirwan noted that during her administration, the university had grown statewide enrollment by 7 percent, reversed declines in overseas enrollments, won Defense Department contracts to provide higher education to U.S. troops in Central Asia and the Far East, introduced cybersecurity programs, advanced community college alliances, and launched new graduate education programs in teaching.
Said Kirwan of the UMUC that Aldridge left behind, "[It is] very much at the leading edge of online education, which is the fastest-growing area of college education in America. [It is] already the largest not-for-profit online education university in the United States, and I see no reason that should change."
Discover how Miyares is keeping UMUC at the forefront of innovation. Read more
With Susan Aldridge's departure, University System of Maryland Chancellor William E. "Brit" Kirwan and the Board of Regents turned to Javier Miyares—UMUC's senior vice president for Institutional Effectiveness and a mainstay of Maryland higher education for more than 30 years—to lead UMUC.
He assumed the presidency at a tumultuous time. In addition to the challenges of a leadership transition, the university was facing what Miyares called a "perfect storm" across all of adult higher education.
Declining enrollments, a challenging economy, fewer eligible college-age students, a shrinking military, and increasing competition from schools in both the public and private sectors meant that UMUC would have to adjust in order to maintain its position at the forefront of adult higher education.
Fortunately, Miyares was comfortable with change. Born in Cuba and educated in Jesuit schools, Miyares was in a high school seminary during the Cuban revolution. When his father was taken as a political prisoner by Castro's government, Miyares was spirited off the island nation by his Jesuit teachers on July 4, 1961, at the age of 14. He would later become part of the rescue effort known as "Operation Pedro Pan."
"To a 14-year-old, this was a great adventure," he recalled. "We were supposed to be back by Christmas. From my perspective, I thought that every child is separated from his parents. Of course, I never made it back."
He ended up in Miami, where he graduated from a Jesuit high school. Entering a seminary in the Dominican Republic, he witnessed another revolution and saw American troops storm ashore to intervene.
"I was fascinated by those troops," he said, "but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be the president of a university that is the premier institution serving the higher education needs of the American military."
Leaving the seminary, Miyares landed in Baltimore to live with his brother and to attend college.
"I came to College Park and, literally ever since, I have been part of Maryland higher education," Miyares said. "For me, fitting into higher education allowed me to find my niche in this experience we call America."
He finished his bachelor's and master's degrees and completed all but the dissertation for a PhD in educational measurement and statistics. His studies had set him on the path to becoming what he terms "a data guy."
He joined UMUC in 2001 as vice president for Planning, Research, and Accountability.
In recommending Miyares for the presidency, Chancellor Kirwan said, "His vision and commitment and his ability to build consensus make him the ideal person to lead UMUC at this time."
As president, Miyares has maintained his commitment to data-driven decision-making, pushing to standardize online course terms at eight weeks instead of 12 to better accommodate adult learners and supporting the university-wide initiative to replace costly publisher textbooks with open-source online resources, thus saving UMUC students millions of dollars annually.
Under his leadership, enrollment figures rebounded, as the university used data analytics to streamline its recruiting and retention efforts, and his initiation of generous scholarship support for Maryland community college graduates expanded access and attracted more students.
The university broadened its corporate and institutional alliances, including an agreement with the federal Office of Personnel Management to help fill identified skills gaps in the 2.7 million person federal workforce.
He spearheaded a successful effort to improve operations and efficiencies by aligning the university's three divisions—Europe, Asia, and stateside—under a single administrative umbrella while eliminating redundancies in its online operations.
Miyares also sought changes in the university's business model to make it more competitive in the challenging 21st-century marketplace of adult higher education.
In 2015, the USM Board of Regents approved a UMUC plan to spin off its highly successful Office of Analytics into a new company, HelioCampus, that offers business intelligence products and services, for a fee, to institutions nationwide. The university will use the profit it generates to further reduce the cost of an education for Maryland community college graduates.
Building on that success, UMUC established a nonprofit supporting organization, UMUC Ventures, to serve as a holding company for HelioCampus and other nonacademic university endeavors with the objective of increasing flexibility and agility and of generating outside revenue.
Acknowledging the university's ongoing commitment to the military on his watch, the Department of Defense signed new contracts with UMUC to continue educating U.S. troops in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, thus maintaining the proud tradition of serving U.S. armed forces overseas dating back to 1949. In 2015, UMUC's service to veterans was cited by Military Times, which ranked the university #1 in its "Best for Vets: Colleges" list.
The university has received numerous other honors during Miyares' tenure, including the 2015 President's Award from the Open Education Consortium for its exceptional leadership in adopting open-source material in all classes. The university's competitive cybersecurity team, the Cyber Padawans, won the 2014 Global CyberLympics in Barcelona, Spain, along with other state and national championships.
Miyares' vision and leadership led to a number of appointments, including his current roles as a commissioner on the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and as a board member of the American Council on Education (ACE).
In 2016, Miyares was honored with the NUTN (National University Technology Network) Distinguished Service Award for "his principled and visionary leadership in higher education, his unwavering focus on the future, and his steadfast commitment to the success and wellbeing of students in Maryland and abroad."
From the beginning of his presidency, Miyares said his goal was to leave UMUC in a strong, competitive condition for the next president to enter "this plum of all plum jobs in online higher education." And looking back, he savors how far he has come since fleeing Cuba in 1961.
"Both of my parents were educators," he said. "So I feel a particular sense of pride in being appointed to lead UMUC."