By MARK WILLIAMS, Associated Press Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio State University President William Kirwan was explaining why he's leaving for a new job in Maryland when he said, "The draw of our family being in Ohio was irresistible. ... I mean Maryland.
"I'm probably going to make that mistake quite a few times," he said.
Kirwan has struggled for a week to choose between two states where he's built deep commitments and attracted strong support.
On Monday, Kirwan said he will leave the state's largest university to become chancellor of the university system in Maryland, saying he and his wife wanted to be closer to family.
"I feel so deeply committed to Ohio State and was not expecting to leave," Kirwan said. "There's no other position I would have taken. When this offer came, it was a very intensely personal decision."
Kirwan spent 34 years at the University of Maryland as a professor and was president from 1989 to 1998 before becoming president at Ohio State.
The Maryland university system has been searching for a replacement for Chancellor Donald Langenberg, who will step down in April as head of the organization overseeing Maryland's public universities.
"It's not a position we sought or encouraged," Kirwan said.
Maryland officials and former colleagues persisted in calling after he suggested other candidates. The state's regents made an offer on March 18.
Kirwan and his wife, Patty, have two children still living in Maryland with the Kirwans' two grandchildren, and a third is due in a few weeks. He said spending time with them is "of paramount importance."
Kirwan's five-year contract at Ohio State runs through June 2003. Before the offer, he had expected to stay another year or two.
He will begin his new duties Aug. 1. His last day at Ohio State will be June 30.
"He was a great colleague, I dare say a friend in that sense," said Roderick Chu, chancellor of Ohio's board of regents. "In a state system where there historically is animosity between presidents and chancellors, he helped turn that around."
Chu said some of Kirwan's work in Maryland will be similar to what Chu does in Ohio: Getting the public and elected representatives to understand the importance of higher education, especially in a knowledge-based economy.
Mayor Michael Coleman said Kirwan's decision is a loss for the city and state.
"Over the past several years, he has become a close friend and, for the first time, created a true partnership between the city and university to improve economic development for the region, to rebuild the campus area neighborhoods and to ensure that OSU is among America's foremost universities," Coleman said.
Kirwan said he was "overwhelmed" by the phone calls and more than 500 e-mails he received urging him to stay.
He makes $275,400 as president of Ohio State and will make $375,000 in Maryland, according to the board of regents. Langenberg is making $359,000 this year. Kirwan said this will probably be his last full-time job in higher education.
Unlike in Ohio, where the regents are a coordinating agency for independent university boards of trustees, Maryland's regents are a governing body, Kirwan said.
The board of trustees will determine their process for selecting a new president within a few days, chairman David Brennan said.
Under Kirwan's watch, Ohio State has begun improvements that include recruiting distinguished faculty from other institutions, making classes more available to students, increasing diversity and strengthening technology programs.
Since he arrived, the amount of money spent on research and development has increased to $377 million from $236 million in 1998, and the amount of awards from federal agencies increased from $135 million in 1998 to $198 million in 2001.
Kirwan said he is confident the plan will live on after he leaves. The university is about to announce more newly recruited professors, he added.
"There's an enormous sense of regret and loss in leaving Ohio State," Kirwan said. "I will always have a sense of loss in not being part of seeing all of the good things I'm sure will happen."
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)