Mary Rockwell Hovet, 85, Howard County schools assistant superintendent

April 20, 2003|By Michael Stroh | Michael Stroh,SUN STAFF

Dr. Mary Rockwell Hovet, a former assistant superintendent of schools in Howard County, died in her sleep Wednesday at Brighton Gardens assisted-living community in Columbia. She was 85 and lived in Clarksville.

When she retired in 1981, Dr. Hovet had become one of the few women to rise to the superintendent level in Howard County, which led to her induction into the county's Women's Hall of Fame in 1997.

"She was far ahead of her time," said Reva Bryant, a retired Howard County administrator who worked with Dr. Hovet in the 1970s.

Born in Brunswick in Frederick County, Dr. Hovet graduated from Hood College with a degree in mathematics.

She began her teaching career at Brunswick High School, where she had graduated. In 1948, she became supervisor of high schools in Howard County and rose through the ranks until becoming assistant superintendent in 1971. During this period, she also received a master's degree from New York University and a doctorate from George Washington University. Her 151-page thesis was on the history of education in Howard County.

Dr. Hovet's career coincided with numerous changes in the county's education system. When Maryland went from an 11-year school system to a 12-year one in 1947, Dr. Hovet was charged with helping develop the curriculum for the new year.

But the most dramatic change occurred when the planned community of Columbia opened in 1963. Dr. Hovet occasionally was criticized for being an early proponent of the community.

"People wanted to know why I was pro-Columbia," she said in a 1981 interview in the Sun. "It's simple. The city helped us in developing a superior school system. We got all kinds of grants because of the model city status."

By the time she retired, Dr. Hovet was proud to point out that 60 percent of Howard County high school graduates went on to college. When she arrived, she estimated only about 13 percent did.

Dr. Hovet's husband, Kenneth Hovet Sr., a professor at the University of Maryland, died in 1971 after nearly 20 years of marriage, leaving her to raise her 10-year-old son alone. Despite the growing demands of her job, Dr. Hovet became a successful "mother and a father," said her son, Kenneth Hovet Jr.

Of course, Mr. Hovet said it wasn't always easy being the child of one of the county's top educational officials. He recalled once cutting class to hang out at The Mall in Columbia only to be spotted by one of his mother's colleagues. When word reached Dr. Hovet, she called her son's school and reported him.

"I could never get away with anything," said Mr. Hovet, who left a law practice to become an 11th-grade teacher in Howard county. "It's in my blood," he said.

Dr. Hovet served on many boards and councils over the years. For eight years, she was an elder at the Christ Memorial Presbyterian Church, where she had been a member since 1962.

After her retirement, Dr. Hovet spent a decade on the Maryland Board of Trustees of the State Universities and Colleges and regularly volunteered at the Howard County General Hospital.

During the last years of her life, Dr. Hovet lived in the Clarksville home of her son, daughter-in-law and three granddaughters, her only survivors.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at the Christ Memorial Presbyterian Church, 6410 Amherst Ave. in Columbia.

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