CA president addresses Hood graduating class

Brown encourages active citizenship

May 20, 2001|By Karen Nitkin | By Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Describing her trajectory from tiny coal-mining town to head one of the largest planned communities in the United States, Columbia Association President Maggie J. Brown urged graduating students at Hood College yesterday to "embrace the challenge of citizenship."

Brown, who has led the 90,000-person CA since February, described citizenship as the act of giving time and energy for the betterment of people as a whole.

On a muggy day brightened with intermittent sunshine, she spoke about 25 minutes, telling the audience on Hood's campus in Frederick that their college education had prepared them for service as citizens. The commencement ceremony conferred bachelor's and master's degrees to 376 students.

Hood was founded in 1893 as a college for women. Although men are now able to attend, the vast majority of students are female, said Dave Diehl, director of communications and public relations.

Brown was chosen as commencement speaker because "she serves as a good role model for women," Diehl said. "She's an important and influential figure in the Maryland community."

Brown, who grew up in segregated coal-mining towns, graduated as her high school's valedictorian at age 16 and earned a chemistry degree from Bluefield State College in West Virginia in 1960.

She said she first started taking on the responsibilities of citizenship in the late 1950s, when she picketed to help integrate the lunch counters and movie theaters of her college town. After graduating from Bluefield, she worked as a research chemist at the National Institutes of Health and then started a family.

Brown mentioned some of the turbulence of the 1960s, including the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., then described her experience buying a home.

"When my husband and I, along with three other black families, moved to a section of Baltimore called Arlington, to our amazement, the houses in this community seemed to sprout for-sale signs instantaneously," she said.

So when Brown heard about James W. Rouse and his plans for Columbia, she was intrigued. "James Rouse spoke about how the people would all live, work and play together regardless of race, religion and cultural background," she said.

When Brown moved with her family to Columbia, she began volunteering for the PTA and other organizations.

She became a sales manager for the Columbia Association in 1982 and became vice president and director of community services in 1993.

Brown ended her talk with a list of some of her heroes, including her parents, Mary and Samuel Earle, her husband, Nesbitt Brown, King and Rouse, "who stepped out of his comfort zone."

"I encourage you, the Class of 2001, to give yourself to purpose beyond self," she said. "Work to resolve problems, be a friend to your neighbor, cherish and love your family. Be a citizen."

After her speech, Brown was awarded an honorary degree as doctor of humane letters.

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