Mignon A. B. Cameron, 75, Harford Day School founder


Mignon A. B. Cameron, a founder of the Harford Day School who was recalled for her spirited and magnetic classroom style, died of a cancer-related illness Thursday at Franklin Square Hospital Center. The Bel Air resident was 75.

She taught for two decades at the private Bel Air school, served as a trustee there and sat on the board of St. Timothy's School in Stevenson.

"She loved people, especially young people, and had a particular soft spot for rambunctious, bad boys, adolescents whom she would magically inspire to draw out their best efforts," said her daughter, Annette Cameron Blum of Bel Air. "At the same time, she was an advocate for educating bright girls to become successful, morally centered young women."

She was born Mignon Alger Bell in Fort Benning, Ga., where her father was serving in the Marines. Family members said she spent much of her childhood switching schools as her parents moved to different military posts. She later blamed occasional academic troubles on the discontinuity of her early education - and vowed to help students who had similar difficulties.

"Mom's sympathy for the young adolescent and understanding of that phase of a young person's life was personal. It informed her teaching later on," her daughter said.

She was a 1947 graduate of St. Timothy's School, then located in Catonsville. She attended George Washington University and Old Dominion in Norfolk, Va., and later studied at the Johns Hopkins University. She also took courses at the Art Students' League in New York.

In 1952, she married Brodnax Cameron Jr., a Harford County attorney who was later named a circuit court judge and is now retired. He survives her.

In 1957, Mrs. Cameron joined two other women to found the Harford Day School in Bel Air. Their goal was to have an independent school that offered an expanded curriculum with foreign languages and art.

Mrs. Cameron taught French, which she spoke fluently, geography and medieval, Renaissance and Asian history.

"She believed in total immersion in the French language," her daughter said. "She bought her texts, completely in French, from the French bookstore in Rockefeller Center."

Her students likened her classroom style to that of cookbook author and television host Julia Child. They said Mrs. Cameron was direct, candid and held little back - and often brought her dogs into her classroom.

"She was a force. She'd roar onto the school grounds, usually late, in one of her Volkswagens or Jeeps. She'd pile in, her books overflowing from the canvas bags she carried," recalled Katy Dallam, a former student who is now the head of Harford Day's middle school. "Then she'd blow into the classroom with her German shepherds alongside."

Mrs. Cameron also instituted an annual field trip to New York, taking students in her Volkswagen van, and would sometimes have her students ride the subway to the Cloisters, a section of the Metropolitan Museum of Art with collections of medieval sculpture and tapestries.

In 1965, in addition to a full teaching load, she began leading Girl Scout Troop 864 and became a board member of the Harford Theater Association. The group staged operas in a barn on the campus of what was then Harford Junior College.

She stopped teaching in 1977 but would occasionally lead classes to the Cloisters. She was also a benefactor of the Harford Day School and retired from its board of trustees in 1994.

In 1968, she was appointed to the Alumnae Board of Governors of St. Timothy's School, and later served on the school's board of trustees. She was a trustee emerita at her death.

Friends said Mrs. Cameron enjoyed throwing parties and frequently invited former students. They also said she was effective at raising funds for educational causes.

Private burial services were held yesterday. Plans for a memorial service are incomplete.

In addition to her husband and daughter, survivors include her four grandchildren.


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