UMES President Dr. Juliette Bell submits surprise resignation

The President of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore this week announced she will resign in June, after leading the institution and its 3,169 students since 2012.

Her resignation follows by five months the equally unexpected announced exit of Dr. Janet Dudley-Eshbach as Salisbury University President .

Dr. Juliette Bell, the 15th president of UMES since it was founded in 1886, called being the university’s leader “an honor, privilege and blessing.”

In her letter of resignation, she said she is proud that, during her tenure, “we have established new academic programs, including our first fully online degree, a master’s in cyber-security engineering technology, and built our largest, most sophisticated facility, the ultra-modern $103 million Engineering and Aviation Science Complex.”

“We achieved milestones in student success including the highest four-year graduation rate in 14 years, at 22 percent; the highest six-year graduation rate in nine years, at 38 percent; and the two largest graduating classes, 768 and 758 graduates in UMES history.

“We also have experienced successes in fundraising with three major gifts of $1 million each, and an increase in the university’s endowment by 45 percent since 2012,” she wrote.

Bell, 62, called her decision to resign “a difficult one” reached “after much thought and prayer.”

“I believe there is a time and a season for all things,” she wrote.

“This is my time to renew, to rekindle my passions, and to spend quality time with family, especially my M&Ms (a.k.a. my five grandkids). This is UMES’ season for growth and continued excellence as a Doctoral University as it embarks on a new strategic plan and a new capital fundraising campaign,” she wrote.

A native of Alabama, Bell graduated as valedictorian of her class.  She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Talladega College in Alabama and earned a doctorate in chemistry with a biochemistry concentration from Atlanta University, now Clark Atlanta University, and completed post-doctoral work in biochemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, according to information provided by UMES.

Following her post-doctoral fellowship, she worked as a senior staff fellow and research biologist at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Under the guidance of Dr. Thomas Kunkel, a senior scientist there, Bell studied an enzyme responsible for linking the billions of building blocks that make DNA. She was one of the first to identify ways to manipulate that enzyme to measure its ability to make DNA accurately under a variety of natural and experimental conditions. This work is important in understanding genetic disorders and diseases, such as cancer, according to information provided by UMES.

In 1992, she accepted an appointment as a chemistry professor and director of biomedical research at Fayetteville State University. She also pursued her scientific interests with a National Science Foundation.

Bell made full professor at Fayetteville State in 1998, directed its Biomedical Research Program from 1993 to 2006 and established the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement program, aimed at preparing students to pursue careers in biomedical sciences.

She was honored with the 2001 National Role Model Citation from Minority Access, Inc. and the 2000 Millennium Award for Excellence in Teaching in Mathematics, Science, Engineering and Technology at Historically Black Colleges from the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

In August 2009, Bell was named chief academic officer at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, a historically black institution with an enrollment of 2,500 students.

She and her husband, Willie, a retired police chief and consultant who advises college administrators on campus security, have two adult children and five grandchildren.

“I am incredibly proud of all we have accomplished together during my tenure as president. Through your hard work and dedication, UMES has, indeed, made substantial progress toward my vision of moving From Excellence to Eminence,” Bell wrote in her resignation letter.

“Although we graduated our first Pharm. D. cohort just in May 2013, we have already produced nearly 300 graduates and have become a Top 10 producer of African-American pharmacists

“We have accomplished many milestones, including our long-held goal of gaining Carnegie Doctoral University status, which we achieved in February 2016.

Challenges, she wrote, have been handled with honesty, transparency and a can-do attitude.

She encouraged faculty, staff and students to continue to focus on the school’s mission of preparing graduates to address challenges “in a knowledge-based global economy.”

“I will continue giving my best on behalf of UMES. Thank you for the trust and support you have given me and for the privilege of serving our beloved UMES as your leader.  I am, and will always be, a Hawk-4Life,” Bell wrote.

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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