William English Kirwan

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William English Kirwan
Chancellor of
University System of Maryland
In office
2002 – 2014[1]
President of
Ohio State University
In office
President of
University of Maryland, College Park
In office
Personal details
Born (1938-04-14) April 14, 1938 (age 79)
Louisville, Kentucky
Alma mater University of Kentucky
Rutgers University
Profession Professor, university administrator, academic

William English "Brit" Kirwan (born April 14, 1938) is the Chancellor Emeritus of the University System of Maryland (USM). He served in the position from August 2002 through June 30, 2015. Before that, Kirwan was the 26th President of the University of Maryland, College Park and the 12th President of Ohio State University. He was also a member of the faculty at the University of Maryland for 34 years.

Early life[edit]

Kirwan, the son of former University of Kentucky President A. D. Kirwan, received a bachelor's degree from the University of Kentucky, where he was a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity[2] and a Master's and Ph.D. from Rutgers University in 1962 and 1964.


Kirwan started at the University of Maryland, College Park as an assistant professor in the mathematics department, before going on to become a department chair, provost and ultimately university president. He helped lay the framework for the University System of Maryland in 1988 and was named university president in 1989.

At Ohio State, Kirwan focused his attention on improving the academic standings during his tenure. He left Ohio State in 2002 to become chancellor of the University System of Maryland.

Kirwan is a nationally recognized authority on critical issues in higher education and is a sought after speaker on a wide range of topics, including diversity, access and affordability, cost containment, economic impact, gender equity, financial aid, and innovation. He is a member of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics and became its chair in May 2000. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation; chairs the College Board's Commission on Access, Admissions, and Success in Higher Education; and is a member of the Business-Higher Education Forum. He was also appointed by President George W. Bush to the Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In April 2007, Kirwan was appointed to the editorial board of the newly announced Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, to be published quarterly by the American Psychological Association and the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education.

Kirwan is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Greater Baltimore Committee, the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, and the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education. On February 15, 2007, he became the 16th recipient of the Maryland House of Delegates Speaker's Medallion, which recognizes Maryland citizens who have demonstrated exemplary service to the House and to the State of Maryland.

Kirwan is the winner of the 2010 TIAA-CREF Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence. Considered one of the nation's top higher education honors, this award recognizes leadership and commitment to higher education and contributions to the greater good.

In 2009, he received the Carnegie Corporation Leadership Award, which included a $500,000 grant to fund USM academic priorities. The prestigious award recognizes higher education leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to excellence in several areas, including undergraduate education (teaching and research) and outreach to communities.

In 2010, Kirwan was appointed to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, or NACIQI. The group serves in an advisory capacity to the U.S. Secretary of Education on accreditation issues and certification processes for colleges and universities. He was also in 2010 named chair of the College Board Advocacy and Policy Center Advisory Committee. Kirwan is a past board chair of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges and of the American Council on Education. He is also a member of the CuriosityStream Advisory Board.[3]

On May 13, 2014, Kirwan announced publicly that he would step down as USM chancellor after twelve years of service, and 50 total years spent in undergraduate education. As a tenured member of the Mathematics faculty at the University of Maryland, College Park, he will serve as the Regents Professor of Mathematics.[4]

Personal life[edit]

His nickname, "Brit," was given to him by his parents when he was a child, coming from his middle name. They didn't want William to be shortened to Bill, as was common.


Further reading[edit]

Preceded by
Robert Gluckstern
Chancellor of the University of Maryland, College Park (acting)
Succeeded by
John Brooks Slaughter
Preceded by
John Brooks Slaughter (as chancellor)
President of the University of Maryland, College Park
Succeeded by
C. Daniel Mote, Jr.
Preceded by
Gordon Gee
Ohio State University President
July 1, 1998 – June 30, 2002
Succeeded by
Edward Harrington Jennings