Alumni help celebrate Carver past and present

April 28, 1999|By GREGORY KANE

LILLIAN Brown walked slowly to the microphone Friday in Carver Vocational-Technical High School's auditorium, quite matronly in her light blue dress and white hat. Looking 80-ish, she appeared way too old to be a Carver alumna of the late 1950s or early 1960s.

But she wasn't being inducted into the school's Hall of Fame. She was there as a proxy. She was there to celebrate the posthumous induction of her son Robert M. Brown of the Class of 1961.

"Praise be to God that I'm able to be here," Brown told Carver's junior and senior classes, who had gathered for the 14th annual Hall of Fame induction assembly. "And I thank God for all of you."

Robert Brown died in 1973 of complications from a wound he suffered during the 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam. He majored in commercial art and ran cross country before graduating from Carver in 1961. Zenia Jenkins, a Carver guidance counselor who read a brief biography of each inductee, said some of Brown's paintings and sculptures are still in the school. Brown joined the Air [See Kane, 5b] Force, where he became a military policeman and rose to the rank of staff sergeant. In addition to serving two tours of duty in Vietnam, Brown served in Italy and Spain. He's buried in Arlington National Cemetery, "not far from President Kennedy's grave," Jenkins noted, and his name is inscribed on the Vietnam Memorial in the nation's capital.

Lillian Brown's son Andre stood to her right as she spoke of Robert. But Andre Brown wasn't there just to support his mother. Minutes before, he had also been inducted into Carver's Hall of Fame. The 1965 graduate played football and wrestled at Carver and, like his older brother, joined the Air Force. While there, he developed an engine repair technique that, according to Jenkins, saved the Air Force thousands of dollars. He is a commercial artist, an illustrator for a book geared to black children called "Shades of Beauty" and manages an architectural construction firm.

"I know I made it hard on" Bobby and Andre, Lillian Brown told the audience, "but I was a working mom." On Friday, the working mom glowed with pride. Her tough love for her boys had paid off. They had graduated from high school and done something constructive with their lives.

This was a day for Carver alumni and students alike to glow with pride. Also honored were:

* Marion Jean Calloway of the Class of 1963, who was a dress-making and design major at Carver and is a paralegal.

* Leon Jones of the Class of 1958, who is a property coordinator for Housing Assistance Corp. and a football official in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Jones has a daughter who, he said, is "the only female division commander in the military. So ladies, you can achieve."

* Robert McElwain of the Class of 1963, who served in the Air Force and was the first black life-support technician to work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. McElwain also is involved in the aircraft emergency parachute ejection program.

* Retired Lt. Col. David Veney of the Class of 1974, who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1979 and has a master's degree in laser physics from the University of Texas. Veney works for a defense contractor.

Not a bad list of alumni for a school that began in a lowly tin hut as the Colored Vocational School on Eutaw Street in 1925. In 1931, the school moved to the corner of Lafayette and Carrollton avenues. It was named for botanist George Washington Carver during World War II, according to Principal Michael Plitt, and moved to its current location at the corner of Presstman and Bentalou streets in 1955.

Plitt said he was hesitant to "toot Carver's horn." But what the heck, Mike. Toot it. It's not often good things are written about Baltimore's much-maligned public high schools. Baltimoreans should know that Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools rated the school one of the most outstanding vocational-technical high schools in the country in 1973. In 1996, Redbook magazine listed Carver as one of the best high schools in the country, and that same year Baltimore magazine named it the best vo-tech high school in the city.

It "has won national recognition for its excellent vocational training," Baltimore magazine wrote, adding that Carver has one of the largest high school work-study programs in the country and that its carpentry students have built houses for Habitat for Humanity.

Carver's past and present were perhaps best summed up by Andre Brown, who urged students to remember both.

"Carver has a heritage," Brown said. "We expect you to live up to it."

Pub Date: 04/28/99

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