Mary Carman Rose

[ Age 90 ] Philosopher who taught at Goucher College had worked on breaking a Japanese code during World War II

December 19, 2006|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,sun reporter

Mary Carman Rose, former chairwoman of Goucher College's philosophy department, died Dec. 12 at ManorCare Towson after suffering a fall earlier in the year. The Cedarcroft resident was 90.

Born Mary Josephine Gassman in New York City, she lived through the Depression in a Minneapolis hotel - sharing a single room with a widowed aunt, Lulu Carman, who did cleaning in exchange for lodging. She later adopted her aunt's name.

Dr. Rose planned to become an astronomer and earned a bachelor's degree at the University of Minnesota with a double major in astronomy and mathematics and a minor in physics. While at the school, she attended the lectures of David Swenson, a translator of the works of the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, and developed an interest in that field.

She married Alexander Grant Rose III in 1943, and the couple moved to Washington. They worked together on breaking the Japanese Purple code for the old Army Cryptanalysis Service.

"She had the math, and he had the language," said their son, John M. Rose who teaches philosophy at Goucher College.

After the war she taught English composition to George Washington University students attending college on the GI Bill. "She recalled the day she gave the same lecture on the comma six times to veterans who filled the classes," her son said.

She commuted to Baltimore by bus and earned her doctorate at the Johns Hopkins University in 1948. Her dissertation was titled "Three Hierarchies of Value: Leibniz, Kierkegaard, and Whitehead."

She moved to Baltimore in 1953 when she was hired as a philosophy professor at Goucher, and was for a time the department chairwoman. She retired in 1981.

"Mary had an exceptional intellectual curiosity and an open mind," said Goucher's former president, Judy J. Mohraz. "She did not draw the line on what could be proven rationally. She believed that knowledge and truth could transcend what we know rationally."

She became a senior adjunct lecturer at St. Mary's Seminary and Ecumenical Institute, Towson University and Goucher from 1981 through 1999.

"She was famous for what she called her `Dr Pepper breaks,' which announced the arrival of her fascinating tangents and unique reflections," her son said, adding that she was a proponent of interdisciplinary approaches to education that mixed mathematics, logic and physics with religion, aesthetics and ethics.

"She saw the beauty in all human intellectual achievements," he said.

In the late 1960s, as the college initiated a winter term, she would lecture for the month of January on topics she favored: tarot cards, mysticism and psychic research.

She was the president of the Society for the Philosophy of Religion and the Academy of Religion and Psychical Research, and editor of the Journal of Religion and Psychical Research.

Some of her students dubbed her "Mystic Mary" because of her interests.

"Her philosophy embodied a forward-looking blend of animal rights, religious spirituality, sensitivity to personal situations and the expressions of beauty and value in nature," her son said.

She published more than 125 essays in philosophical journals, as well as a book of reflections, Essays in Christian Philosophy.

A memorial Mass will be offered at 11:30 a.m. today at St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church, 6428 York Road, where she was a member.

She is also survived by a grandson, Marcus Alexander Rose. Her husband died in 1995, and another son, David Alexander Rose, died in 1953.

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