To celebrate the inauguration of Kim Schatzel as Towson University’s 14th leader, we are looking back at the past leaders of the school. These essays are from a book we helped craft, Towson University: The First 150 Years.
Dr. Mary Theresa Wiedefeld’s rise to the position of president of the State Teachers College followed the familiar pattern of the two female principals/presidents who preceded her. Born in 1866 and raised in the Hamilton section of Baltimore County, Maryland, she graduated from the MSNS in 1904. Wiedefeld joined the MSNS faculty in 1914 as a teacher in the Model School and became the principal for the Model School a year later when MSNS moved to its Towson location. She remained in this position until 1919, when she resigned to become the Supervisor of Anne Arundel County Schools. In 1924, Wiedefeld was appointed Assistant State Supervisor of Elementary Schools and later became Supervisor. She held this position until returning to Towson as president in 1938. In the meantime, Wiedefeld earned a Bachelor of Science in 1925 and a Doctor of Education in 1937, both from Johns Hopkins University.
She would need all of the experience she had to lead the State Teachers College from the end of the Great Depression through World War II and the return to peacetime conditions. During the war, enrollment declined as students and staff left to serve in the military or to take better paying jobs in the war industries and services. President Wiedefeld introduced a special program for cadet teachers to help alleviate the teacher shortage, inaugurated the junior college program for returning veterans, and took the first steps toward preparing teachers for the new specialties of junior high and kindergarten. The innovative child study program, with its emphasis upon the importance of understanding the individual child, was given considerable impetus in Maryland because of Dr. Wiedefeld’s leadership. She encourage the formation of faculty groups and helped implement a faculty salary scale which established the principle of regular increments.
Wiedefeld also taught during summer session at Towson, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pittsburgh. After 1947, she taught at Loyola and Mount Saint Agnes College. She also served as a teacher and consultant to the Training School of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, a Roman Catholic order dedicated to education. Wiedefeld was the author of numerous significant publications in the field of elementary social studies and co-author of a set of widely-used geography texts. She was honored with membership in Pi Lambda Theta and Kappa Delta Pi. Wiedefeld also remained a strong supporter of the Towson Alumni Association.
A staunch advocate for physical activity, she was instrumental in having a gymnasium built on campus in 1942. In September, 1957, the gym was formally named Wiedefeld Gymnasium. In January, 1968, it was demolished to make way for a new library building.