William J. Jenkins

[ Age 68 ] The longtime Baltimore middle school and college educator relished his time spent in the classroom.

December 10, 2007|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,Sun reporter

William J. Jenkins, a longtime Baltimore City schools teacher and administrator who also taught adults at Baltimore City Community College, died of bladder cancer at his daughter's home in Eldersburg on Thursday. The Columbia resident was 68.

He started his teaching career in 1962, presiding over classes in Latin and English at the former Gwynns Falls Middle School in Baltimore. About a decade later, he started taking administrative posts. He ended his career in the public school system as a vice principal at Northeast Middle School in 1992.

At BCCC, Mr. Jenkins taught adults how to prepare for their General Educational Development exam and to learn English as a second language, said his daughter, Rachel Born of Eldersburg. "He loved being in the classroom," she said. "He would give out his telephone number to his GED students and say, `Call and let me know when you pass.'"

He was born in Youngstown, Ohio, but moved at an early age with his mother and father, an Electrolux vacuum sales manager, to Greenville, S.C. He left home at age 14 to enter the St. Charles and St. Mary's Paca Street Catholic Seminaries in Baltimore with the goal of becoming a priest, his family said.

However, after seven years of study, he left the seminary and returned to South Carolina to live with his parents and attend Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, N.C. He received a bachelor's degree in philosophy and later obtained a master's degree from St. John's College in Santa Fe, N.M.

Ms. Born said her father's parents let him enter the seminary because religion was such an important part of his life, even as a boy. "He was their only child, but they were good parents and they let him go to Baltimore. They were very proud of him," she said.

Mr. Jenkins remained friends with many of the young men he met while attending the seminary. The sister of one of his former fellow seminarians introduced him to his future wife, Marcia Mowery of Cumberland.

Colleagues said that his education at the seminary made him a very judicious and patient teacher and administrator. At Northeast, he was in charge of discipline for the seventh grade, a job that meant he often had to play referee between teachers and unruly youths, said Beverly Crisp Harstad, who was principal of the school for nine of the 10 years that Mr. Jenkins worked there.

"I never saw him perturbed," said Ms. Crisp Harstad, who retired the year after Mr. Jenkins. "He could remain cool under pressure, and he had an outstanding sense of humor that could defuse any situation."

Ms. Crisp Harstad said she relied on Mr. Jenkins and his "calming personality" to manage the school. But she said he was also a good friend. When it snowed, he would drive to her house and take her to work because she didn't like to drive in inclement weather.

"He always thought about other people," said Ms. Crisp Harstad. "He was a man of high character, and he is going to be sorely missed by me and many other people."

After he left the public school system, Mr. Jenkins took a part-time job with the Johns Hopkins University Center for the Social Organization of Schools, a position that allowed him to continue working to improve city schools, his family said.

Mr. Jenkins lived for many years in Catonsville, but moved to Columbia in 2001, according to his family.

A funeral Mass will be held at 11 a.m. today at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, 8300 Old Columbia Road, Fulton.

Besides his wife and daughter, he is survived by two sons, William J. Jenkins Jr. of Charlotte, N.C., and Robert Jenkins of Westminster; another daughter, Kara Brandenburg of Eldersburg; and 12 grandchildren.

lynn.anderson@baltsun.com

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