University (And City) Lucky To Have Schmoke

May 22, 2014

Credit Tom Chalkley

Kurt Schmoke’s move from City College to Harvard to City Hall was foreordained.

He was to be Baltimore’s first elected black mayor. It was also unenviable.

It’s easier to follow a failure than a world-beater. Schmoke made history, but he was following Baltimore’s best mayor (in all probability) ever. Thoughtful, low-key Schmoke would be following the showman Schaefer – and running against the Inner Harbor forever.

For Schmoke, the challenge was made more difficult by a sharp drop in federal financial help. Money from Washington allowed Schaefer to change the city skyline. And even if the money had been there, Schmoke might not have been the man to use it in service to some grand design. Schaefer had already done that.

Instead, he did an essential but far less flashy job of stabilizing the city.

As the world turns, Schmoke will replace Robert Bogomolny who has transformed the University of Baltimore into a bright, if still relatively small, star. UB had no definable presence. Using some of the same initiatives Schaefer used, Bogomolny gave Baltimore a vibrant, young neighborhood. The school’s imposing new law school building will surely be the focal point of an institution that served well but anonymously.

Schmoke should thrive there. He won’t have to stand in the shadow of some iconic figure. Bogomolny was no Schaefer – nor wanted to be one.

Schmoke has his own presence, his own charm. He will do well with the "sherry and brie" set. The student body will embrace him. He’s youthful and smart and practiced in university leadership.

Baltimore is lucky to have him back.