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'We will help students fulfill their dreams'

  • Heidi M. Anderson inaugurated as UMES' 16th leader

    Friday, September 13, 2019
    Dr. Heidi M. Anderson on inauguration day

    Dr. Heidi M. Anderson was formally inaugurated Friday as the 16th leader of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore on the 133rd anniversary of the institution's founding. 

    When Anderson took office on Sept 1, 2018, she became the fourth woman in the 21st century to serve as UMES' president. 

    The university opened its doors as a private prep school on Sept. 13, 1886, when nine students were welcomed by principal Benjamin Oliver Bird and his wife, Portia, who eventually became its first female leader in 1897 after her husband died. 

    “It is with pride and humility,” she said, “I acknowledge that I stand on shoulders of not only our founders, but also all the previous presidents who have served our great institution.” 

    The serendipitous alignment of the calendar one year into her tenure inspired Anderson to pick Founders' Day 2019 for the tradition-rich ceremony held in the Ella Fitzgerald Center for the Performing Arts. 

    Among those on hand were colleagues who lead other University System of Maryland institutions, and Dr. Helen Giles-Gee and Dr. Linda Bleicken, two mentors whom Anderson singled out and thanked in her inauguration speech. 

     “I am now privileged to lead at a pivotal moment at this institution and in the town of Princess Anne,” she said.  “I am heartened and energized by the vast store of goodwill from a number of people who believe in our institution.  People recognize this university embodies hope and represents the future for many students, and they want to help us succeed.”

    Gabrielle Pinto, left, President Anderson and Sarah Adewumi

    Anderson's installation as UMES president marks the pinnacle of a four-decade career in higher education that began as a graduate teaching assistant at her alma mater, Purdue University, where she earned three degrees, including a doctorate in pharmacy administration in 1986. 

    Her first student, pharmacist Eric Smith, traveled from New Jersey to surprise Anderson on her big day. 

    Anderson's remarks about opportunity and helping students achieve their goals were clearly those from a first-generation college graduate. 

    “Together we will make strategic investments that enable our students to succeed.  Together, we will continue to strengthen our programs and identify new ones for the future.  Together, we will collaborate with existing partners and create new partnerships.  Together, we will help our students fulfill their dreams,” she said. 

    Kennera Goodman, the 2019-20 Student Government Association president, offered a glowing first-year critique of Anderson's performance as seen through the eyes of undergraduates, praising her for dining weekly with students, attending their parties and being a fixture at important student-organized activities. 

    “You are the best thing to happen to UMES,” Goodman said. 

    Other platform guests offered similar testimonials about Anderson's professionalism and personality, including Robert Caret, the University System of Maryland chancellor, who said she clearly was the best candidate for the job among finalists he interviewed. 

    Anderson offered an outline of how she plans to lead the institution now that she has a year under her belt. 

    “We need to give voice to our vision for our campus and our students.  We need to renew our commitments to quality and access to higher education for all students,” she said. 

    Anderson said she is confident UMES can “grow by creating new opportunities in the community, and through grants and research partnerships.  And ... we will continue to honor our founders in expanding pathways to our campus for new student populations, including those historically excluded from higher education.” 

    “We will voice a vision of relevance, inclusivity, and innovation.  To be great ... we must shake off complacency, embrace competition, and challenge ourselves to live and breathe student success,” Anderson said. 

    She finished by paraphrasing television's Oprah Winfrey:  “This is our moment,” she said, “let's own it together.”