Navy official returns to visit alma mater

Gordon R. England speaks about Sept. 11 at Mount St. Joseph

May 09, 2002|By Linda Linley | Linda Linley,SUN STAFF

Only a native would know that the city's name is sometimes pronounced "Bawlmer" or that Bugle Field was where Baltimore's Elite - pronounced e-light - Giants played in the Negro National League.

Gordon R. England, 64, the secretary of the Navy, proved conversant in both areas last week when he reminisced about his hometown while visiting his alma mater, Mount St. Joseph High School on Frederick Avenue in Irvington.

England, a 1955 Mount St. Joseph graduate, gave a short speech to the junior class at the all-boys Roman Catholic high school, then presented the school with two large inscribed posters.

One was a photograph of the Pentagon, draped with the American flag, days after Sept. 11, when a jet commandeered by terrorists slammed into the building. The other was the Navy's new recruiting poster with a photo of an aircraft carrier at sea, bearing the words: "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of All Who Threaten It."

After a brief tour and stops in several classrooms, England talked about education, religion, giving back to communities and patriotism, and then touched briefly on the events that preceded and followed the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, which he called a "traumatic time."

"We should never take this country for granted," England told the students. "9-11 was a wake-up call. The people have had the will to defend this country for 226 years to protect our freedoms and liberty. The latest threat is terrorism."

England grew up in a working-class family on Mulberry Street, off Edmondson Avenue, in West Baltimore. He attended St. Bernardine's Elementary School and his family was a member of St. Bernardine's Parish.

He worked his way through high school and college, and graduated from the University of Maryland in 1961 with a degree in electrical engineering. Last month, he was awarded the President's Distinguished Alumnus Award at the College Park campus for achieving national recognition in his profession and field. He also earned a master's degree from Texas Christian University.

"Education is a way to realize your potential in life," he told the students. "You have to keep learning."

Later, in an interview, England said he earned 45 cents an hour working with his father at Bugle Field, in the 1500 block of Edison Highway, before it was torn down in 1949. His father ran concessions at the ballpark, and England said he sold peanuts and ice cream.

"I had to work to earn the money for my education at the Mount," England said.

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