By feeding community, Hytche nourished UMES – University of Maryland- Eastern Shore chancellor William P. Hytche - Higher Education


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By feeding community, Hytche nourished UMES – University of Maryland- Eastern Shore chancellor William P. Hytche

by Ronald Roach

As a young mathematics
instructor in 1963 at the college
that is now the University of
Maryland-Eastern Shore, Dr.
William P. Hytche took a stand
for better conditions for his
students and the community
surrounding the school.

Treated to poor service at a segregated
diner while on a local outing with a student
group, Hytche vowed to find an alternative to
the segregated restaurants in surrounding
Somerset County. That alternative was the
Hawk’s Nest, a campus diner opened by
Hytche and his wife that soon became
popular with students and local townspeople,
both Black and white, in Princess Anne, Md.
“If you spent money in my restaurant, I
treated you right,” Hytche said.

In 1975, Hytche became acting chancellor
of the school and in 1976 the position became
permanent. He had already witnessed
attempts by the state of Maryland to convert
the historically Black institution into a
community college, a poultry farm and a
prison. Recognizing that the school would
have to expand to ensure its long-term
survival as a historically Black school, he
again found a solution that proved beneficial
to both the university and the community.

Nearly twenty-two years later,
Hytche, who retired as UMES president
on January 13, 1997, now enjoys the
legacy of having led the school’s greatest
expansion. Since 1975, UMES has added
fourteen undergraduate degree programs,
eight master’s programs, and two doctoral
programs to its overall curriculum. Total
student enrollment has gone from 800
students in 1975 to more than 3,000,
according to Hytche. The campus has
added eleven buildings, has renovated
fourteen existing buildings, and has plans
to build two additional edifices by 1998.

University supporters and faculty
members credit Hytche for having the political
savvy and the vision to grow the student
enrollment nearly four times over during
the twenty-one years he headed the school.
Observers say his early outreach efforts
in Princess Anne, Somerset County, and the
surrounding Eastern Shore cities and counties
proved decisive when the school was
challenged by the Maryland state legislature
and when it needed support for expansion.
“He had the political skills to work with
the legislature and the ability to get things
done without alienating the officials in
Annapolis,” said Dr. Jodellano Statom, chair
of the Department of Education at UMES.

Creates Advisory Council

Hytche said that immediately upon
becoming UMES chancellor he saw the need
to reach out to the local community, so he
began forging new relationships with
community leaders. Having served as a
UMES faculty member since 1960, when the
institution was known as Maryland State
College, he knew as well as anyone the
uneasy relationship that existed between
the school and the community.

Since its founding in 1886, UMES, had
struggled to survive in the remote, largely
rural region of Maryland east of the
Chesapeake Bay. The school suffered some
hostility from the surrounding communities,
where segregation had been practiced for a
long time.

“In a rural community setting, the idea of
university was not really a high priority to
many people. It wasn’t viewed as a great asset
to the community,” said Somerset County
administrator Charles Massey, who would
become one of UMES’s allies in the 1970s.
Through his establishment of the Hawk’s
Nest in the 1960s, Hytche had earned a
reputation locally as a pragmatic and
committed individual. Daniel Ulm, a banker
from Salisbury, Maryland, said he came to
know Hytche while visiting the restaurant
to sample its barbecued spareribs.

“We would have lunch in the back,” Ulm
said. “I saw him as a truly dedicated person
who really wanted the very best for the
school.”

On his first day as acting chancellor,
Hytche sent invitations to twenty-eight
people, many of whom were local officials,
asking them to:serve on what became known
as the Chancellor’s Advisory Council. To his
surprise, all twenty-eight accepted his offer
and the council became a part of the new
chancellor’s coalition to build community
support for UMES. Massey and Ulm were
among the individuals who accepted Hytche’s
request.

“I thought there was a real interest on
his part to build the school as well as the
community,” Massey said.
Roy Beauchamp, a former poultry
industry executive based in Salisbury, Md.,
also accepted Dr. Hytche’s invitation to join
the advisory council.
“I knew he was a hard worker, and he was
very personable. If he asked you for help, it
was very hard to turn him down,” said
Beauchamp, who was a member of the
Maryland Agriculture Commission in 1975.

Alliances Begin Paying Off

Hytche says his first major test came
during the 1977-78 school year when
members of Maryland state legislature
proposed that UMES merge with the
predominantly white Salisbury State
University in Salisbury, Maryland. When the
legislature authorized a study of the merger
proposal, members of the Chancellor’s
Advisory Council and other local leaders
testified on behalf of maintaining UMES
as a distinct institution. The proposal
was eventually defeated.

“I think what Dr. Hytche skillfully did
was to convince people that UMES was a
valuable resource to the entire community,
particularly to the local economy,”
said Dr. Leon Copeland, chair of the UMES
Industrial Education and Technology
department.

By the summer of 1978, support
for UMES had grown to the point that
incoming University of Maryland System
President John Toll, speaking about his
priorities, told a reporter that he had “a
number of them. But if I have to say one,
it’s to help make the Eastern Shore
campus as good or better than any of
the other campuses.”

With increased support from the
University of Maryland System and the
state legislature, Hytche embarked on an
ambitious plan to develop new academic
programs and launch new construction on
the campus. But one of the toughest
decisions Hytche says he had to make
came in 1980 when he suspended the
school’s football team. The University
of Maryland system had required that
athletic programs among its schools
become self-supporting.

“I couldn’t raise student fees any
higher knowing that many students could
barely afford to pay tuition,” Hytche said.
New programs developed at UMES
largely centered around business, science
and technology. Programs in agriculture
and extension education, construction
management, engineering technology,
agribusiness, poultry science and
marine-estuarine environmental science
were largely developed to help prepare
UMES graduates to compete for jobs in the
local economy. Although some liberal arts
faculty members grumbled about the
heavy emphasis on business and
technology, the new programs won support
from the state and the local community,
according to Hytche.

“Dr. Hytche was one to develop a
consensus with the various constituents at
the university. He had an open door policy
which was very commendable,” Dr.
Copeland said.

In 1984, the Maryland state
legislature authorized UMES to be the
only Eastern Shore college or university
to develop new doctoral programs. Hytche
said UMES went on to create doctoral
programs in marine-estuarine
environmental science and toxicology.

Hytche is proud of the fact that UMES
has attracted private financial support to grow
its endowment from $3,000 to $10 million–a
figure which includes the value of acquired
land–during his tenure. In 1987, the school
accepted a $2 million donation from Richard
Henson, an airline entrepreneur. In 1990,
Richard Bernstein, an Eastern Shore-based
entrepreneur gave UMES a $1 million gift.

The Means to a Better Life

A native of Porter, Oklahoma, Hytche
grew up in a family of nine children. He said
his father, who had an eighth grade education,
worked as a minister and a farmer to make
ends meet. His mother was a homemaker who
had attended college for two years and briefly
taught school.

Young William Hytche attended public
schools in Fort Gibson and Tullahassee
Oklahoma. He gives both his parents credit
for instilling in him the belief that education
provided the means to a better life.

Although he had aspirations of becoming
a dentist, Hytche, who earned his
undergraduate degree at Langston University
in Oklahoma, decided to pursue graduate
study in mathematics. He received master of
science and doctor of education degrees from
Oklahoma State University. He also studied at
Oklahoma University, Oberlin College in
Ohio, the University of Wisconsin at
Madison, and the University of Heidelberg
in Germany.

Prior to joining the UMES, which was
then known as Maryland State College,
Hytche taught in the public schools of Ponca
City, Oklahoma, and at Oklahoma State
University. At UMES, he served as Chairman
of the Department:of Mathematics, Dean of
Student Affairs, and Chairman of the Division
of Liberal Studies before becoming chancellor.
In 1988, Hytche’s title of chancellor was
changed to president, a job that carried a
salary of $127,000 a year when he retired.
Upon retiring, Hytche, 68, accepted a
position as executive assistant to University
of Maryland Chancellor Dr. Donald N.
Langenberg. He has an office on the UMES
campus and is writing an official history of
the school. He is also working on his memoirs.

“I hope my story will inspire others,” he
said.

COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates



© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com

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