If one of the keys to a successful long-term relationship is making a great first impression, then the future looks merry and bright for Kim Schatzel as Towson University’s 14th president. Before an overflow Potomac Lounge gathering Thursday morning, the Schatzel era began with two simple words: an enthusiastically delivered “Good morning!”
Although Schatzel doesn’t officially begin her presidential duties until Jan. 25, she quickly made her positive presence felt Thursday as she mingled easily with students, faculty, staff, and members of the media. She didn’t talk much about herself during her brief remarks; she let others do that. Instead, she talked about her clandestine visit to Towson last month and what she learned about the university’s culture.
“My husband Trevor and I came to campus and spent four or five hours ‘mystery shopping,'” she recalled, evoking good-natured laughter from the crowd. “We had a cup of coffee at Paws, went to a football game at Unitas Stadium, and walked around campus.
“What we really felt, when we talked to all the people as we walked around campus, was the absolute clarity that this is a special place,” she added. “Students told us they felt at home, that it felt ‘small’ here, even though it is a large university. We absolutely loved it.”
Then Schatzel told a story of how she and her husband were at Freedom Square that November morning, trying to find their way to Stephens Hall.
“We must have had a confused look on our faces because a couple of students stopped and asked if they could help us,” Schatzel recalled fondly. “We told them we were looking for Stephens Hall and the students were trying to point it out to us from where we were standing. Eventually, the students walked us up to Stephens Hall and chatted with us along the way.
“That really impressed me and said so much to me about the type of culture Towson University has,” she added.
University System of Maryland Chancellor (and former TU president) Robert Caret opened Thursday’s event by offering some insight into what separated Schatzel from the other top candidates for the position.
“On paper, any of the top finalists could do the job,” Dr. Caret said. “It really comes down to chemistry and finding the right person at the right time. That’s Kim Schatzel. She is direct but warm, very much a people person. She brings a hybrid blend of real world experience, business experience, and higher education experience. I know you’ll love her.”
USM Regent and Presidential Search Committee Chair David Kinkopf also spoke briefly and thanked Dr. Timothy J. L. Chandler for the outstanding job he performed as acting and interim president over the past 15 months. He praised Chandler’s “vision, leadership and commitment to Towson,” comments that evoked thunderous applause and a standing ovation as the university community expressed its collective thanks for a job well done.
“He does it all with class and a certain style that’s all his own,” Caret said of Chandler’s leadership.
But in the end, the morning belonged to Schatzel. She thanked everyone who had sent her e-mails, tweets, and other warm greetings over the past six days since the presidential announcement was made last Friday.
“So many of those e-mails and tweets ended with ‘If there is anything I can do for you or for Towson, just call me,'” she noted. “I am thrilled to be here at Towson. There’s a lot to be proud of at Towson University and there are great things ahead.”
One aspect of Schatzel’s personal style emerged just after Thursday morning’s event concluded. Eschewing a ride back to the Administration Building, she opted instead for a leisurely walk through the center of campus, past Freedom Square and “the beach,” where she casually chatted with students and talked about her plans for the next few days, which included house hunting with her husband and new clothes shopping.
“It turns out,” she joked, “I look way better in gold than I expected!”