Biggest bequest for small college $1.25 million gift is left to Catonsville school

October 27, 1997|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Michael James contributed to this article.

A Baltimore woman has bequeathed $1.25 million to Catonsville Community College -- reportedly the largest gift to a Maryland community college -- even though she never attended a class there.

Grace M. Platzer, who died last year at age 91, grew fond of the college's Rolling Road campus during occasional visits over the years, attending U.S. Army Band concerts and college theatricals. She still visited the campus later in life while using a walker and wheelchair.

"She just fell in love with the college" as she got to know people on campus, said John A. Hayden, Platzer's lawyer and a longtime family friend.

Platzer and her late husband, Charles B. Platzer, had no children together. They ran the Aladden Trailer Village in Elkridge for more than 30 years, during which Grace Platzer was a longtime volunteer at Spring Grove Hospital Center in Catonsville.

Her gift has ensured that future students attending the college have modern equipment. The bequest will be formally accepted today, but $363,000 is already allocated for computers at the newly expanded Applied Technology Center and completion of its conference room, said Dr. Frederick J. Walsh, CCC president.

Noting what the bequest has made possible and its future benefit to CCC, Walsh said, "We're very grateful to Mrs. Platzer, and we'll put the money to good use."

The balance will be invested, and foundation directors plan to use the money for scholarships and continuing faculty education, said Hayden, who is also president of the Catonsville Community College Foundation.

Catonsville Community College has 18,850 credit and noncredit students and a $28.5 million operating budget.

After the Platzer ceremony, NationsBank officials will announce a gift of $150,000 over five years to the foundations of Catonsville, Dundalk and Essex community colleges.

Million-dollar gifts may be pocket change to major universities such as those in the Ivy League and the Johns Hopkins University -- in 1995, Hopkins received a $55 million gift from business media tycoon Michael R. Bloomberg. But to community colleges, which lack huge endowments and struggle to keep tuitions low, $1 million is extremely important.

Before the Platzer bequest, the largest gift to a Maryland community college had been the $1 million pledged to Harford Community College in 1995 by Barclay "Bob" Tucker and his wife, Betty Lou, of Havre de Grace.

The Tuckers' pledge -- to be paid after their deaths -- came after he sold the construction equipment dealership he had owned for 20 years in Aberdeen. Mrs. Tucker had attended HCC.

Catonsville Community College officials said buildings on campus are not named for individuals, but Walsh said the conference room might be named in Grace Platzer's honor.

Born in Neavitt, Talbot County, Grace Platzer later moved to Baltimore with her family. After a brief teaching career, she married Charles Platzer in 1929. Her husband had a son by a previous marriage.

The Platzers had a grocery store in South Baltimore and then a chicken farm in Riviera Beach, before settling into the trailer park business.

After Charles Platzer's death in 1981, his wife sold the trailer park and moved to Roland Park Place in Baltimore. Even into her 90s, she had an adventuresome side, friends recall, and just last year she flew to Alaska and took a boat ride with relatives around that state's rugged coastline.

A niece, Edwina Murphy of Tilghman Island, will represent the family at today's ceremony in the Pullen Board Room of the Mansion at Catonsville Community College. "Grace was a very kind, very giving person," Murphy said. "She loved people, and she was very good to me."

Pub Date: 10/27/97

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