King award is just latest of many accomplishments Arundel professor surprised by honor Heritage of Honor -- A celebration of Black History Month

February 04, 1993|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Staff Writer

Sylvia Ingram doesn't much like to talk about herself.

In fact, the associate professor of English and director of the office of affirmative action at Anne Arundel Community College can't quite figure out why she's become a celebrity.

"I am what I am," said Dr. Ingram, who last month won the Martin Luther King Jr. Zeitgeist Award from the Anne Arundel County NAACP, for being the person who best exemplifies the spirit of Dr. King. "I'm just me. I don't like to stand on a lot of ceremony. I'm just a simple person."

For a simple person, Dr. Ingram has accomplished quite a bit.

A native of Detroit, Dr. Ingram entered Eastern Michigan University with every intention of majoring in economics. But she left with a degree in special education.

"I originally wanted to be an economist, mainly because it was easy for me," she said. "But then I got a job working in a psychiatric hospital."

Working in the hospital led her to consider a career as a psychometrician, measuring mental traits and abilities. But because of her interest in children, friends convinced her to pursue master's and doctoral degrees in special education.

"I saw lots of children, particularly black children, being identified as mentally retarded," Dr. Ingram said. "One of the problems was black children were being evaluated through an IQ test. And as we now know, Hispanics and blacks traditionally score lower on standardized test for a number of reasons, including lack of exposure."

Dr. Ingram entered the University of Michigan seeking her master's and doctoral degrees and found herself called the most productive student by her classmates -- while also becoming a mother three times during this critical portion of her education.

After teaching at Antioch College in Ohio and Howard University in Washington, D.C., Dr. Ingram came to the Arundel college in 1982. During her interview with the college, she told the selection committee that Anne Arundel Community College was the school from which she planned to retire.

At age 45, Dr. Ingram is far from retirement. But in her nine years with the college, she has accomplished quite a bit. And those accomplishments often come as quite as a surprise to her.

Dr. Ingram began at the college as an adjunct professor. Five years ago, college President Thomas Florestano asked her to head the office of affirmative action.

"Either I'm doing something right or I'm not making any waves," she said.

Dr. Ingram began holding Women's Week at the college four years ago. She has worked with the Black Students Union orchestrating a Christmas party for disadvantaged children.

She also has made the office more visible. Students and staff stop by often. The office, she said, has gained "more clout," allowing her to develop a workshop on sexual harassment for all college officials.

She also has developed a minority faculty and staff directory and established a mentoring program.

Dr. Ingram still finds time to teach courses like Introduction to Special Education, Developmental Psychology and Statistics. The economist never left her.

In her spare time, Dr. Ingram said, she becomes "the old-fashioned woman," sewing, quilting and interior-decorating.

She also helps her husband, Jesse, a lawyer and teacher at Bowie State College.

Dr. Ingram said she prefers to think of herself not as a Superwoman, but a Renaissance woman.

"The word Superwoman is a bit of a put-down," she said. "It connotes someone who thinks she can do it all. I can't do it all. But I do have a lot of interests."

Yet with all that Dr. Ingram has done, she said she was shocked to find out she had been selected as this year's Zeitgeist recipient.

"I wasn't doing any of this to get any glorification," she said. "I just do it. But that award means a lot to me because of what it stands for, keeping the spirit alive.

"Maybe I am," she admitted.

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