Nathan A. Pitts, 84, college professor, U.S. Department of Education employee

June 07, 1998|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Nathan A. Pitts, a former professor and department head at Coppin State College and member of a U.S. delegation that helped to train teachers in Iran, died Tuesday at Good Samaritan Hospital from complications after surgery.

Dr. Pitts, 84, of Northwest Baltimore was always interested in education and took an active role at Ashburton Elementary/Middle School.

"He spent much of his life encouraging people to get an education or get involved in education," said his daughter, Mitra Pitts Rogers of Bethesda. "He was always working on a way to bring black people into the educational system."

Dr. Pitts was a professor and chairman of the social science department at Coppin State from 1950 to 1957 and from 1959 to 1960. A quiet man with a warm smile, Dr. Pitts was considered a firm but fair instructor.

"He was the kind of teacher that you could relate to and be a friend of," said James Wells, a former student. "But when he was talking, when he was lecturing, everyone was quiet and paying attention. They'd better."

In 1957, Dr. Pitts began his international career, working as a teacher-trainer adviser for the Agency for International Development in Tabriz, Iran. From 1960 to 1970, he worked for the U.S. Office of Education in Washington.

From 1970 to 1975, he worked for the U.S. delegation to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in Paris. He returned to the U.S. Office of Education in 1975, where he retired in 1980.

Born in Macon, Ga., Dr. Pitts attended Florida A&M University on a football scholarship and graduated from Xavier University in New Orleans in 1936. He received a master's degree from the University of Michigan in 1944 and his doctorate in sociology from Catholic University in 1950.

His teaching career began in 1938 as a coach and instructor at a high school in Birmingham, Ala. In 1939, he came to Ridge, St. Mary's County, where he was principal of the old Cardinal Gibbons Institute.

From 1944 to 1950, he was a sociology instructor and social science department chairman at the former North Carolina College in Durham, N.C., and Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C.

A stickler for quality education, Dr. Pitts was active with the Ashburton school for at least 15 years.

"He wanted to make sure they had computers, and he was trying to get to Oprah [Winfrey] to come and have a reading program there," said Dr. Roland Smoot, a Baltimore physician and friend for nearly 30 years.

Dr. Pitts was also instrumental in keeping the school in the neighborhood when city officials wanted to relocate it several years ago. Not only did his efforts help in keeping the school in the community, but a new school building opened this year.

Frances Ellington, principal at Ashburton, said Dr. Pitts was constantly searching for grants and equipment for the school and had recently received a $5,000 grant used for books and videos on black history.

"He thought that black history should be studied not only in February when it's traditional, but discussed all of the time," the principal said.

In addition to the daughter, Dr. Pitts is survived by his wife, the former Mary Alma Williams, whom he married in 1939; a brother, Dr. Raymond J. Pitts of Sacramento, Calif.; and a granddaughter, Mackenzie Mitra Rogers of Baltimore.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. tomorrow at New All Saints Catholic Church, 4408 Liberty Heights Ave.

Pub Date: 6/07/98

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