PRINCESS ANNE, Md. -– Dr. Juliette B. Bell announced today that she will step down as president of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore on June 30.
Bell informed Chancellor Robert Caret, the University System of Maryland’s governing board and the UMES Board of Visitors of her decision, which was then shared in a letter that went out to the campus.
“Serving as President of this great University has been an honor, privilege, and blessing. I am incredibly proud of all that we have accomplished together,” Bell said. “I thank the USM Board of Regents, Chancellor Caret, colleagues, faculty, staff, students, alumni, friends and supporters of UMES for the trust and support you have given me and for the privilege of serving our beloved UMES as your leader.”
Bell was named UMES’ 15th leader by former Chancellor William Kirwan in March 2012 and took office three months later. She is the institution’s fourth woman to hold the position and the third this century, following in the footsteps of Dr. Thelma B. Thompson (2002-2011) and the late Dr. Dolores Spikes (1997-2001).
“Juliette has courageously guided the University of Maryland Eastern Shore through a time of profound change, both for that institution and for higher education,” Caret said. “She never wavered in her passion for and dedication to UMES’ history and mission of providing student-centered educational opportunities that foster multicultural diversity, academic success, and intellectual and social growth while preparing graduates to address challenges in a global knowledge-based economy.”
In announcing her decision, Bell said, “This is my time to renew, to rekindle my passions, and to spend quality time with family. During the transition, I will provide assistance as requested in my role as special adviser to the University.”
“Beyond that, I have many projects that have been placed on the back burner, including writing a book about my journey from the cotton fields of Alabama to the heights of my career as a scientist and academician,” she said. “I will finally have some time to dedicate to these pursuits.”
Prior to becoming UMES president, Bell, a biochemist, was chief academic officer of Central State University, a historically black institution in Wilberforce, Ohio.
At UMES, she focused on elevating the university’s visibility regionally and nationally as a 21st century land-grant institution, stressing science, technology, engineering, agriculture and math – or as she likes to call it, “STEAM’ disciplines.
Those efforts paid dividends this past fall when the university cracked the top 20 ranking of historically black institutions in an annual survey of peers conducted by U.S. News & World Report.
Bell presided over the construction and opening of a $103 million classroom building in 2016 that houses the departments of engineering, aviation science and mathematics. It is the first new classroom building since 2003, prompting a $1 million donation from Delmarva Power, an Exelon Co., to support “green” energy initiatives.
Three months later, the Richard A. Henson Foundation bestowed another $1 million gift on UMES to continue its support of academic programs, including the university’s honors program named after the late aviator-entrepreneur.
UMES’ Foundation Endowment grew 45 percent during the first five years of her presidency and stood at $26.2 million at the end of the 2017 fiscal year, which saw the university raise $3.4 million.
The university also launched an online master’s degree in cybersecurity engineering technology, and with support of the Board of Regents created a discounted tuition category designed specifically to appeal to residents of Delaware and Virginia’s two counties on the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula.
The latter was part of a more focused, aggressive strategy Bell approved to promote the university by forming a marketing office. It played a central role in a successful lobbying effort that won the support of Gov. Larry Hogan and the Maryland General Assembly to provide funding to pay for planning another new classroom building that will house the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions.
When Hogan was elected to his first term in 2014, he enlisted Bell to serve on his transition advisory team. She also testified twice on Capitol Hill before congressional committees on behalf of HBCUs, and led the historic 125th anniversary celebration of the Second Morrill Act as chair of the Council of 1890 Universities under the Association of Public Land-grant Universities.
A noteworthy highlight during Bell’s tenure came in early 2016 when the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education designated UMES a Doctoral University (Moderate Research Activity) in recognition of the university annually producing more than 20 doctoral research graduates. In June of that year, UMES received word the Middle States Commission on Higher Education reaffirmed the university's institution-wide accreditation for the next decade.
“On behalf of the Board of Regents and her colleagues throughout the University System of Maryland, I want to thank Juliette for her service and wish her well,” Caret said. “In the coming weeks, I will announce the process by which the next UMES president will be selected by the Board of Regents.”
Bill Robinson is director of the UMES Office of Public Relations (410-621-2355).