I had planned to devote some of this space this month, when we feature our annual City Guide, to reflecting on the summer activities I’ve enjoyed over the years in Baltimore, at the beach, and around this wonderful state, but eleventh-hour events intervened. The first was the decision by Nancy Grasmick to retire in July after serving 20 years as Maryland State Superintendent of Schools. I want to add my voice to the many who have already expressed gratitude for the tireless devotion she has shown to two decades of students.
Those who know me are aware of the importance I attach to education. In part, that’s because my own formal education was abbreviated by responsibilities to my family. But that interest was sharpened and focused because of Nancy Grasmick’s influence, not just by what she said in her countless appearances across the state and in the General Assembly, but by what she did to bring her vision to life for the kids in our classrooms.
This is not an unbiased commentary: Nancy and her husband Lou, a prominent and philanthropic Baltimore businessman, have long been close friends of mine. But Nancy did not just drop into her role because of political connections. She earned her appointment as schools superintendent by working in education much of her adult life, including as a teacher for deaf children and later as a Baltimore County school administrator. She knew how the educational system worked—and knew when it didn’t—and was determined to improve it. And the record—which includes Maryland ranking ahead of all other states in K-12 education performance for three years in a row—provides indisputable evidence that she has done that.
During the long career she’s leaving this summer, she served under four governors, and the relationships she had with some of them were not always easy ones. (You can read more about Nancy and her legacy in Charm City Chatter on page 72.) But as a colleague of hers said recently, they may not have always agreed on every issue but no one ever doubted Nancy’s heart was with the boys and girls whose futures would be shaped by their experiences in our schools.
We were saddened by news at press time of the death of William Donald Schaefer, 89. Although he served two terms as governor (and two as state comptroller), to me, and to most of this city, he will always be Baltimore’s mayor: the scrappy, forward-thinking, take-no-guff face of Baltimore’s renaissance who was known not just for his bluntness but also for the temper he liked to deploy for dramatic effect.
Look around the city: Our crowning jewels—Harborplace, Camden Yards, the National Aquarium—simply wouldn’t exist without his tenacity. But the beauty of “Willie Don,” whom I counted as a personal friend, was that he also sweated the small stuff, like a pothole or trash-filled alley he noticed in his sharp-eyed travels around town.
His name will forever be synonymous with Baltimore—as it should be.