Elsie Entwisle, retired Hopkins administrator, dies at 84

Administrator known for her efficiency, generosity and straight talk

March 20, 2011|By The Baltimore Sun

Elsie Entwisle, a retired senior departmental administrator at the Johns Hopkins University, died March 11 of leukemia at Gilchrist Hospice.

She was 84 and lived in Parkville.

Born Elsie Marie Miller in Pigtown, she and her two brothers were raised by their grandparents after their mother died of tuberculosis when Ms. Entwisle was 4.

She graduated from Southern High School and then went to work at Domino's Sugars and the old Baltimore City Traffic Court.

In 1946, she met the Rev. Willard M. Entwisle, who came to Baltimore to lead what was then St. Paul's Chapel on Washington Boulevard and who would become her husband. The relationship caused a stir among the congregation, who considered them an unlikely match. Entwisle was more than two decades older than his future bride. He had a college degree; she only finished high school.

They married in 1948, and Ms. Entwisle quit work to become a priest's wife and mother.

"They shocked everyone," said Ms. Entwisle's daughter, Jane Shipley of Baltimore. "But she was drop-dead gorgeous, and he didn't have a chance."

Ms. Entwisle returned to work in 1962 at what was then called the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. She worked for two years in the department of pathobiology and then became the administrative assistant to the chairman of the biochemistry department, Roger M. Herriott.

She was named department administrator a short time later and in 1976 was promoted to senior department administrator. She held that position under four department chairs until her retirement in August 2000. Her daughter said it was testament to her abilities that each new boss kept her mother on the job.

"They all considered her worthy," Ms. Shipley said. "Oftentimes, a chair will come in and want their own people, but they all wanted to keep Mom."

A former boss said Ms. Entwisle was an efficient, straight talker who kept the office running smoothly. Roger McMacken, the former chairman of Hopkins' biochemistry department, said she rose through the ranks despite her limited educational background.

"She wasn't the kind of administrator that had a financial background or an MBA," Dr. McMacken said. "She was sort of a self-made women, and I think everybody appreciated her."

Ms. Entwisle oversaw million-dollar budgets and balanced them as if it were her own money. She ran a deficit only once in 36 years — and she paid for it with seven pennies from her own wallet.

While Ms. Entwisle was assertive and had a "drill-sergeant attention to detail," she was also warmhearted and generous, those who knew her said.

She counseled colleagues about work and life, and helped welcome doctoral student trainees who were there for research programs. Her motto was "the students come first." She organized holiday parties, picnics and other social activities for the students, her family and former co-workers said. Every summer she hosted a barbecue at her brother's pool. She even discreetly gave some students personal loans when they struggled financially, her family and co-workers said.

"These doctoral students are the lifeblood of the department, and keeping them happy is an important thing," Dr. McMacken said. "She did a good job of that and the students loved her."

Ms. Entwisle also organized trips for American and Canadian researchers to Pakistan for conferences. One group included Nobel laureates James Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, and Hamilton Smith of Hopkins.

Ms. Entwisle was so dedicated to Hopkins that she retired early to help the department save money, her family said. She then came back on a part-time salary but continued to work full-time hours because she loved the job so much.

Many knew Ms. Entwisle for her homemade peanut brittle — a recipe she found in Family Circle magazine. Each year she made pounds of it to give to her friends, former co-workers and doctors. Her peanut brittle sold out each year at the St. Stephen's Traditional Episcopal Church's fall fundraiser.

Ms. Entwisle also enjoyed Irish ceili dancing and traveling, her family said.

Services were held Wednesday at St. Stephen's Traditional Episcopal Church in Timonium.

In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Entwisle is survived by a son, Willard Entwisle Jr. of Parkville; and four grandchildren.

andrea.walker@baltsun.com

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