Elzee C. Gladden, turned around troubled schools

September 12, 1994|By Shirley Leung | Shirley Leung,Sun Staff Writer

Elzee C. Gladden, an innovative educator who devoted his life to championing the needs of inner-city youth, died of cancer Thursday at Liberty Medical Center. The Baltimore resident was 61.

During his 37-year career in the city school system, Dr. Gladden was seen as a trouble-shooter who was dispatched to fix schools that seemed beyond repair. He had been principal at five schools. He was best known for the stewardship of his alma mater, Dunbar High School, where he was principal for a decade until his retirement in 1992.

He helped improve the school's image after the 1982 release of a report questioning the quality of the school's administration and curriculum.

"He was clearly an outstanding leader," said Walter G. Amprey, the city school superintendent. "He moved Dunbar from a high school strictly known for its basketball to one known . . . for its academics."

Dr. Gladden also brought national attention to Dunbar. Four years ago, he helped the school win a coveted $657,957 RJR Nabisco grant, which he used to develop a weekend program to encourage students to pursue careers in mathematics, science and technology.

He also designed a nationally recognized program between the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and Dunbar in which students enrolled in Dunbar's health professions curriculum would receive academic help from Hopkins.

To his colleagues, the energetic educator seemed to find new ways to teach children. But he also relied on the basics: walking the halls, interacting with students and offering them mottoes to follow in striving for success.

"He was a genuine advocate for young people," said Edmonia Yates, a former deputy school superintendent. "He seemingly had the ability to look at young people and see what bothered them and help them move along the educational pipeline.

"He was not one to pigeonhole kids into a special education track," said Dr. Yates, who was also a high school and college classmate of Dr. Gladden. "He tried to have every child reach for the stars."

When Dr. Gladden retired, he was recognized by then-President George Bush, Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and other elected officials.

Born in Chester, S.C., the youngest of 18 children, Dr. Gladden moved to Baltimore when he was in second grade.

A product of the city school system, he received his undergraduate degree in mathematics in 1955 from what is now Morgan State University.

He earned a master of education degree from Loyola College in 1961, and in 1983 became the first person to receive a doctoral degree from Morgan.

His dissertation for the doctor of education degree was on urban education.

He first taught math at Douglass High School, was a department head at Harlem Park Junior High and held various other positions in the school system before serving as principal at Fairmount Hill Junior-Senior High, Fairmount Hill Vocational High, Eastern High and Garrison Junior High.

He was a member of many regional school committees and professional organizations including the Public School Administrators and Supervisors Association, the National Association of Secondary School Principals and Maryland Association of Secondary Principals.

Dr. Gladden was an active member of the First Baptist Church of Baltimore, where he served on the board of trustees and deacons.

In his spare time, Dr. Gladden enjoyed tending his rose garden.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at the First Baptist Church, 4200 Liberty Heights Ave.

Dr. Gladden is survived by his wife of 37 years, the former Jessie Benjamin; a son, Marc E. Gladden of Baltimore; a daughter, Lisa A. Gladden of Baltimore; three brothers, Edward Gladden of Buffalo, N.Y., and Herbert Gladden and Joseph Gladden, both of Baltimore; and a sister, Rosalie Gladden of Baltimore.

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