Education building named for Grasmick

Ehrlich gives longtime state superintendent `well-deserved honor'

April 28, 2005|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Recognizing her 14 years as state schools superintendent and decades before that as a teacher and administrator, the Board of Public Works voted yesterday to name the State Department of Education's headquarters building in honor of Nancy S. Grasmick, adding her to a long line of Marylanders who have seen public buildings named for them while still in office.

The change in the Baltimore building's name, made at the suggestion of state school board member Maria C. Torres-Queral, was a surprise to Grasmick, who was brought to the meeting ostensibly to answer questions about the state of education in Maryland.

A few minutes into Grasmick's talk about the achievements of Maryland students, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who sought unsuccessfully to make her his lieutenant governor candidate in 2002, cut her off.

"Blah, blah, blah," he said. "The real reason why you're here is, there's a building, the Civic Plaza Building, 200 West Baltimore Street. It's now going to be known as the Nancy S. Grasmick Building."

"The bottom line is this," the governor continued. "Nancy wakes up every day with one thought in her mind: How to serve the children in our state. This is a well-deserved honor."

Grasmick was reappointed to another four-year term last year and shows no signs of tiring. But Maryland has a long tradition of naming buildings for people not only before they die, but while they are in office.

State Senate committees meet in the Thomas V. Mike Miller Senate Office Building, even though the Calvert County Democrat continues to pad his record tenure as Maryland Senate president. And if Comptroller William Donald Schaefer needs to visit the state Department of Assessments and Taxation, he would go to the building named after him on St. Paul Street in Baltimore, just one of many Schaefer edifices across the state.

Schaefer now works in the Louis L. Goldstein Treasury Building, which he, as governor, named for the longtime comptroller while Goldstein was in office. Schaefer also named the Maryland National Guard headquarters for his favorite adjutant general, Lt. Gen. James F. Fretterd.

And three years before Gov. Parris N. Glendening's second term ended, Garrett County Community College named its new Advanced Technology Center for Sustainable Land Use after him.

Sometimes the habit of naming for the living has produced awkward situations.

Construction is under way in Annapolis on a $29 million expansion to the Thomas Hunter Lowe House Office Building, the new wing of which will be named for former House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr.

Taylor, now a lobbyist, could be buttonholing legislators in a building named after him.

Probably the strangest juxtaposition came when the federal government charged then-Rep. Edward A. Garmatz in the Baltimore courthouse named after him. It was the first time in the nation's history that a man was indicted in a building named after him, said Arnold M. Weiner, who was one of his attorneys.

On the day the trial was to start, the government prosecutors stood up in court and acknowledged that some of their evidence in the bribery case came from forged documents.

As soon as the case was dismissed, Weiner said, Garmatz walked outside on a snowy Baltimore day and turned to his left, where his name was on the wall. He reached into his overcoat, pulled out a handkerchief and began wiping the letters.

"It was a great moment. All the reporters and photographers were there, and they were saying, `Congressman, what are you doing?'" Weiner said yesterday. "He said, `I'm just wiping the tarnish off my name.'"

Not all efforts to name things for the living worked out. After Rep. Helen Delich Bentley left the House in 1994, members of the state congressional delegation sought to name all or a part of the Baltimore Beltway - Interstate 695 - after her.

But the federal government has had problems with these sorts of things before. For example, a stretch of interstate in Arkansas was briefly named for Wilbur D. Mills before the drunken congressman was stopped by U.S. Park Police while driving next to the National Mall with a burlesque dancer named Fanne Foxe. The woman fled the car and jumped into the reflecting pool.

Federal officials insisted that they would allow the renaming of the Beltway for Bentley only after she was dead. Bentley replied that she wasn't interested.

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