Johns Hopkins’ Rockville campus celebrates 20 years
by Kevin James Shay | Staff Writer
Business and political leaders Monday saluted the past 20 years of Johns Hopkins University’s Montgomery County campus in Rockville and promised bigger things in the next few decades.
‘‘In the early 1980s, a very creative and bold Montgomery County government, led by [then-] County Executive Charlie Gilchrist, decided to turn the field surrounding a hospital in Rockville into a world-renowned genomic research center,” Edgar E. Roulhac, vice provost for academic services at Hopkins, said at an hourlong ceremony attended by some 250 people.
‘‘Crazy idea, perhaps, but county leaders believed this was the place to do it,” Roulhac said. ‘‘And boy, were they right.”
The campus, in the Shady Grove area of Rockville, opened in 1988 with almost 900 graduate students in public health and engineering. It now has more than 4,000 students in more than 60 degree and certificate programs, including in business, education and the arts and sciences.
Biotechnology and other businesses have grown around the campus. Besides classrooms, there are on-site research centers and office space for private companies and nonprofits.
When Shady Grove Adventist Hospital opened in 1979, the medical center stood alone in that field, said William Robertson, CEO of parent Adventist HealthCare. ‘‘We have watched many others bloom here,” Robertson said. ‘‘The visionary thinking and collaborative spirit that brought Johns Hopkins to Montgomery County is still alive in all of us.”
Jonathan Cohen, who earned a master’s in biotechnology while attending Hopkins’ Rockville campus, is now president and CEO of Rockville biotech 20⁄20 GeneSystems.
‘‘The Johns Hopkins Montgomery County campus was the only evening program that offered the technical coursework and degree that I needed,” Cohen said. ‘‘My experience here, gaining essential knowledge and meeting professors and other colleagues in this business community, emboldened me and empowered me to form my own company.”
Others noted the plans outlined in a project called Vision 2030 for not just a greatly expanded research and educational campus, but enhancements to the surrounding area that will include more businesses, housing and transit. The project is still in the planning stages, said Elaine Amir, executive director of Hopkins’ Montgomery campus.
Hopkins recently began an effort to more closely link the university and other Maryland institutions and businesses, said university President William R. Brody.
‘‘The map they have created documents research priorities, current and projected land use, as well as equipment and instruments that each research institute is willing to share with others,” said Brody, who is retiring from the Baltimore institution effective Dec. 31. ‘‘This is a map to our future. It can lead us to new connections and closer collaboration.”
Other speakers included Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), Montgomery County Council President Michael J. Knapp (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown and former state Department of Business and Economic Development Secretary Aris Melissaratos, who is now Hopkins’ senior adviser to the president for enterprise development.
Johns Hopkins University is the largest private employer in Maryland with 24,485 employees, while Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System is the fourth largest private employer with 13,750 workers, according to a state survey last year.
Hopkins’ Rockville campus has about 60 full-time employees and more than 150 employees of its on-site corporate partners.