Catherine R. Gira, President Emerita of Frostburg State University, Dies at Age 86

Mar 28, 2019 5:00 PM

Dr. Catherine Russell Gira, president emerita of Frostburg State University, died Tuesday, March 26, 2019, at the age of 86. Gira led FSU from 1991 to 2006.

Gira, FSU’s 13th president, presided over a period of growth in infrastructure, reputation and diversity, despite weathering national economic downturns.

Her tenure saw the completion of the Woodward D. Pealer Performing Arts Center (begun in a previous administration), the construction the Compton Science Center and Edgewood Commons and the renovation of Gunter Hall, as well as groundwork laid for the Center for Communications and Information Technology, a building named in her honor in 2015.

National or international accreditation was achieved for Colleges of Business and Education and a number of individual programs, and undergraduate and graduate academic programs expanded. Community service initiatives that she nurtured received national recognition. Fund-raising quadrupled.

The diversity of the student body grew as well, with minority enrollment rising from 6 percent in 1991 to nearly 20 percent in 2006, a positive trend that has continued and positioned FSU among the most diverse campus in the University System of Maryland.

She was Frostburg’s second woman president, but when she was hired to lead FSU, she was the only woman president in the USM. She was inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame in 1997.

Born in Fayette City, Pa., she earned her bachelor’s degree from California State University of Pennsylvania, a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University, and her doctorate from American University.

She began her career as a high school English teacher, later joining the English faculty at the University of Baltimore, ultimately rising to the position of Provost. Her particular academic specialty was the study of the works of William Shakespeare.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Joseph. She is survived by her daughter, Cheryl Gira Pattin, son Thomas Gira, daughter-in-law Laurie Gira and two grandchildren, Ellen and Brad.

At the occasion of her retirement, she established the Catherine R. Gira Campus to Community Fund through the FSU Foundation, which supports student experiences that embrace topics of leadership, alumni connections, community service, internships and study abroad. You can make a gift in her memory to the Catherine R. Gira Campus to Community Fund online.

Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit the Frostburg State web site or the FSU Facebook web page . Follow FSU on Twitter @frostburgstate.