Throughout the 11 years that Darryll J. Pines served as dean of the A. James Clark School of Engineering, he was known to disappear from his desk. It happened so frequently, in fact, that it earned him the nickname “the walkabout dean” among Clark School staff. It wasn’t that he was looking for a break from the challenges, commitments, and considerable work that came with overseeing one of the best engineering schools in the country, but quite the opposite: Pines could inevitably be found in a hallway conferring with faculty and staff, engaging prospective parents, or—more commonly—in a classroom talking to students.
“He was a very visible dean who touched every single aspect of the college,” says Maureen Meyer, senior assistant dean for finance and administration at the Clark School and a longtime colleague. “He’s intensely engaged and curious about the daily life of our students, because he’s never lost sight of the fact that they are why we are here. That’s one of the things that makes him remarkable and inspiring to all of us.”
Pines stepped down from his post as dean on April 1 to prepare for his new role starting July 1 as the 34th president of the University of Maryland, College Park. When news broke of his presidential appointment, the once semi-anonymous Pines found the span of his career on public display: 25 years at UMD, where he started as an assistant professor of aerospace engineering; a three-year appointment at DARPA, where he initiated $80 million in programs that advanced aerospace technologies; stints as department chair and, later, dean of the school; too many awards, honors, citations, and appointments to count. And while his resume was highly lauded, the underlying sentiment was impossible to miss. Colleagues, alumni, and his longtime staff described him as “selfless,” “genuine,” “diplomatic,” and “deeply caring.”
It’s a consensus that captures his character as dean and foreshadows how he’ll approach his new role on campus. It also speaks to Pines’s enduring philosophy on building a world-class college: to foster a culture of innovation, achievement, service, and excellence requires everyone at the table, working together towards a common goal. Pines was just the person, for the past 11 years, to bring people together: at the Clark School, across the university, and beyond the campus gates.
As dean, Pines united people in every aspect of his work. Faculty and staff admired his ability to nurture talent, embrace an element of risk, and challenge them to work collaboratively, give back, and push the boundaries of their profession. He cares deeply about his students, and has mentored countless over his career. He continued to teach a freshman-level class every fall despite the administrative demands of deanship.
“Looking back, the thing that really made UMD special was its incredible sense of community,” says Lauren Trollinger (’15, M.S. ’17). “Dr. Pines was so supportive of all of us, and it really set the tone at the department level as well. He took the time to be present at events, listen to the concerns of his students and faculty, and work with us to turn our ideas into reality.”
Pines was considered “the dean’s dean” at the university for his welcoming, inclusive nature and his certainty in the power of interdisciplinary collaboration.
“In one way or another he has mentored all of us,” says Bonnie Thornton Dill, dean of UMD’s College of Arts and Humanities, who has worked closely with Pines since 2011. “His many accomplishments and collaborative nature set a standard that all of our peers should emulate.”
On the eve of Pines’s next chapter, the people he has impacted unite again—this time to recognize his fearless leadership of the Clark School, knowing he’ll bring that same inclusion and drive to College Park as president.
“Everyone always asks me, ‘What are you most proud of?’” says Pines. “It’s not the fundraising, it’s not new buildings. It’s all the people we’ve hired and the students who have come here, because they will carry forth this culture of impact. If that continues, then I’ll feel I have done my job.”