Oh Towson, Our Alma Mater: A Brief History of TU’s Alumni Association

Photograph of one person handing another a rolled diploma.

The first indication we have of an active alumni body comes from the Maryland School Journal of 1877, edited by M. A. Newell, who served as the Maryland State Normal School (MSNS) principal from the day it opened in 1866 until 1890.

Text reads The annual re-union of the graduates and students of the state normal school will be held on Friday evening, June 1st, in the Assembly Hall of the school.
Text from that 1877 journal.

From that one sentence, we can gather that this reunion was not the first for graduates of MSNS, but that there was not yet a formal “alumni organization”.

The school was only 11 years old at that point, so it isn’t too surprising that not much had yet been put in place for graduates of the school. The fact that they were meeting with students who were currently enrolled at MSNS also suggests that this reunion was more about passing along the experiences of what it was like to work in the field of teaching as much as it might have been to see old friends and reminisce about the good times had in previous years.

The school was a lot different in 1877. The curriculum lasted only 2 or 3 years, depending on a student’s academic success. There were no dormitories and while the literary societies were definitely in place by that point, perhaps there was not much time for students to spend socializing and getting to know each other.

That one sentence is all that we have related to graduates returning to the school for the next 17 years.

In 1894, Sarah Richmond wrote in her office diary that there was an Alumni Association banquet the day after commencement.

Friday, June 1st, 1894. The Alumni association gave a banquet in the Calisthenium at 6:30 P.M. Forty members were present and all seemed to enjoy the hours spent in social converse and eating.
Richmond’s diary entry and the Calisthenium. Let’s hope they gussied the place up a bit before eating. 

While we don’t have records or documents that tell us exactly what happened, there is evidence which shows that as the school evolved the Alumni Association solidified.

An 1893 Baltimore Sun article listed eight Alumni Association officers at M. A. Newell’s funeral, including D. Edward Stauffer who served as president. Stauffer and C. Hervey Perdee, who was president after Stauffer, are both listed in an 1897 article about planning the next reunion.

Information about the Alumni Association’s activities and officers continues to be sparse until MSNS moved to its Towson location.

While the school had been discussing the need for a move since just after the turn of the 20th century, Sarah Richmond, a graduate of the  Class of 1866 and MSNS principal, 1909-1917, imbued the discussion with new urgency.

A letter-writing campaign began in the Alumni Association to contact legislators and persuade them to provide funding for a new campus for the school.

ALUMNI ASSOCIATION of the MARYLAND STATE NORMAL SCHOOL BALTIMORE. MD. TO THE ALUMNI OF THE MARYLAND STATE NORMAL SCHOOL: A movement has been inaugurated to secure legislation for the erection of a new Normal School Building with dormitory facilities. As a graduate of the School you must possess a lively interest in this movement. Therefore, it becomes every alumnus and alumna to further this movement by hearty action in attaining the results wished for. The legislature be more likely to something for the school if the members thereof are made to know that there exists throughout the state a strong desire for better facilities and accommodations for training the teachers. You are therefcre urged to write at once a letter to each of the following gentlemen; Hon. Austin L. Crothers, Governor, Annapolis, Md. Hon. A. P. President Of Senate, Hon. J. D. Price, Chairman Senate Finance Committee, Hon. J. Charles Linthicum, Hon. John S. Biddleton, Hon. Peter J. Campbell, Hon. Johnnie Beasman, Hon. Blair Lee, Hon. Richard S. Dodson, Hon. Edward E. Goslin and Hon. L. N. Griffith, members of Senate Finance Committee. Address the above members to the Senate, Annapolis, Md. Write also to the following members of the House of Delegates, Hon. Adam Peeples, Speaker, Hon. Carville D. Benson, Hon. W. P. King and Hon. J. Lee Marriott, members of the Ways and Means Committee of the House. Address the last named gentlemen, House of Delegates, Annapolis. Do not defer writing to several or all of these. There but little time left in which nay bills may be introduced into the General Assembly. Make your letter strong, calling attention these points: First, The present building being situated on the corner of two busy streets, is subjected to many disturbing noises and much dust. Second, The building is not fire-proof. Third, It not ventilated. Fourth, Several of Its classrooms are insufficiently lighted. Fifth, There are not enough classrooms. Sixth, The corridors are narrow and badly Iighted. To improve the present building would require the purchase of the adjoining property and such additions and repairs as would nearly equal the cost of a new building, and even then it would not be a building comparable to of other states. Especially emphasize the need of dormitories where students can be comfortably housed with good sized and well ventilated sleeping rooms, where nutritious food can be obtained, where there are accommodations for study outside of sleeping rooms and where the students may be under the supervision at all times of the faculty of the school. Show the need also of a large Campus to any school building which students attend from all parts of the state. Situated as the Normal School is now, in a crowded section of the city, no cut-of-door exercise can be taken by the student, excepting in the streets of that city. This should not be because the students have come from sections of the state where open exercise has been at their very door. We hope every former Student of the school will enter into this campaign for a now normal school building with heart and soul and will bring all influence to bear upon every member of the General Assembly that can be reached either by se1f or friends. Fraternally yours, Committee William S. Love, M.D. B. K. Puraum Wm. J. Holloway R. M. Brovning
The call to action from the Alumni Association. Point number two, that the building was not fire-proof, would have weighed heavily on people’s minds after the Great Baltimore Fire which had occurred just 5 years earlier.

Ultimately, the school was granted money by the Maryland General Assembly to relocate, and the president of the commission established to move the school was Class of 1866 graduate J. Charles Linthicum, Maryland State Senator until 1911, and then U. S. Congressman.

The Alumni Association honored Richmond in 1916 for her 50 years of service to the school. At that time, she was given a tea service and the sugar bowl contained $500 in gold coins. When she died in 1920, she bequeathed the tea service to MSNS, and the money she’d invested from the gold coins was turned into a loan fund for incoming students. This fund was the first form of monetary assistance the school offered. The fund remained in place until 1970 when it was folded into a general fund by the newly established Towson University Foundation, Inc.

The memory book title page: The Alumni Association of the Maryland State Normal School to Sarah E. Richmond May twenty-seven, Nineteen Hundred and Five
Title page of a memory book from 1905 and a silver tea service given to Richmond by the Alumni Association in 1916.

The move to the Towson campus perhaps was the ultimate piece needed to finally cement a strong alumni organization. We have records of the presidents and officers for the Alumni Association beginning in 1923. Linthicum himself served as president for 1925/1926 and 1926/1927.

We also have budget books from the 1930s that show that dues were $1 per year. A letter from Sarah Richmond during her years as principal suggest that had been the case for some time. The dues, presumably, paid for the luncheon reunions that the school held for alumni every year after graduation as well as educational lectures and other events deemed worthy by the Alumni Association.

It was hoped that an increase in membership of the Alumni Association would also allow that body to hire someone to help run the organization and also create an endowment or scholarship. The Alumni Association was a volunteer organization: all the events, lectures, and reunions were planned by committees of volunteers.

With the move to a larger campus, the Alumni Association also began hosting “home-coming” events which at first centered on mentoring those enrolled in the school about real-life experiences working in the teaching field. The day often culminated with more entertaining fare like soccer games, card parties, dances, and plays.

Marking the change from MSNS to STC. From left to right: Albert S. Cook, Mary Scarborough, Frank Purdum, Lida Lee Tall, and Ruth Parker Eason

This photograph of the installation of the Alumni Association-sponsored plaque reflecting the change from MSNS to the State Teachers College (STC) has three alumni in it:

  • Mary Hudson Scarborough, Class of 1891, served as the principal of the Model School, and also taught math at MSNS and STC.
  • Frank C. Purdum was a member of the Class of 1893. A man of many talents, he went on to pharmacy school and owned a pharmacy in the Hamilton neighborhood in Baltimore, served as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1927 to 1929, and played the flute in the Johns Hopkins Orchestra. He was the Alumni Association President, 1932-1935.
  • Ruth Parker Eason succeeded Purdum as Alumni Association President and remained in the office until 1937. She was a graduate of the Class of 1915. Her long career in education included serving as the director for special education for Anne Arundel County.

The relationship between STC and alumni took on new meaning with the appointment of M. Theresa Wiedefeld to the President’s office in 1938. Wiedefeld herself was a 1904 graduate of MSNS and an active member of the Alumni Association until her death in 1983. Under her leadership, a list of the Alumni Association officers began appearing in the course catalogs along with a brief description of the organization’s activities. At the time catalogs were used as marketing as well as informational tools so this inclusion would have highlighted the importance of the Alumni Association to the school itself.

This partnership would become even more imperative during World War II.  Using connections with the Alumni Association, school administrators reached out to those serving both nationally and globally,  and then shared information with the campus community through a newsletter.

THE STATE TEACHERS COLLEGE ALUMNI VICTORY NEWS 1944 FEBRUARY TOWSON, BALTIMORE 4, MARYLAND OPEN LETTER TO THE ALUMNI It was appropriate that our Founders Day celebrations this year were permeated with thoughts of our men and women who are in the armed services. They marked the culmination of long deliberations and conferences in which were considered plans for paying tribute to our own service groups. We, like all colleges and universities throughout the country, are concerned about the future of our men now on combat duty. We know that we must make post-war plans to rehabilitate them socially and spiritually. The changes brought about in them by the experiences of this horrible war will make it difficult for them to adjust to civilian life. Unless those of us at home prepare to help them there will be a repetition of conditions which followed World War I. Then, too many of the men became greatly embittered by what they found. They accused those who stayed at home of profiteering on the altar of their sacrifice. They cursed the nation for which they had suffered and-many felt that their sacrifices had been in vain. We must not permit a repetition of that condition. We cannot do much. We can do something. That we might present our alma mater with some symbol honoring these men and women has been the desire of all our college and alumni groups. All agreed that it should be in keeping with the spirit of the college and college life, and that it should afford opportunities for education to the entire college community, student body, and alumni. The first formal action was taken by the Executive Committee of the Alumni Association in executive session on December 2, 1943. It was followed closely by the action of the Student Government Association of the State Teachers College on December 7, 1943. Both groups agreed enthusiastically that a modern outdoor swimming pool would answer best the needs of all the groups involved. They agreed that it would serve the college students for instructional purposes. during the late spring and early fall and it would be a source of great pleasure to alumni living in the environs of Baltimore and Towson to have access to their own private pool on summer days. Above all, it would symbolize our gratitude to the service alumni and express our continued interest in them. It would serve also to perpetuate the feeling of college unity among the college groups and the alumni by providing a means of post-graduate education through recreation. These arguments seemed sufficient as support for their decision in favor of The Alumni Victory Pool. The next step was to plan for achieving the goal and to organize for operation. The cost of such a pool is difficult to estimate. We believe that $10,000 is the amount of money we should have for such a venture. When the war is over and labor and materials become available, it may be possible to secure additional state or federal funds for public construction. Our plan, like that of colleges and universities throughout the country is to build a fund in war bonds now. Our slogan is, ' 'Let your money buy fighting aids now and education aids later." Should labor and materials be available before the bonds mature, they (Continued on last page) Greetings to the Faculty, the Students, and the Alumni of the State Teachers College at Towson: We are beginning a new year together. It will probably be a year, the like of which none of us has ever experienced. Let us preserve all that we have that is good and right. Let us preserve our free educational system. This means that more than ever we must stand by our state college for teacher training in a unified manner. Each of us has a tremendous responsibility for the future of the college and in turn for the future of the nation; for, after the planes and guns and tanks have won the war, the educational program will be the greatest determining factor in preserving the peace. We shall all need the courage, the bravery, and even the strategy of the fighting forces to keep the college filled and the alumni interested. Let us work toward this goal, so our children and their children will experience a brave and a glad tomorrow. We must work together as one mighty team. Stand by us so that when we return to the normal operations of both society and humanity, we can have the satisfaction of a job well done. Please accept my sincere wish that the New Year will bring to you and vours all the happiness and prosperity possible, and that 1944 will see peace and good will throughout the world. MYRTLE GROSHANS, President, Alumni Association.
The February 1944 newsletter that went to all campus community members — near and far.

The newsletters contained not just school news, but information regarding the locations of service members. And, as can be seen in this example, those who were not serving in the armed forces still wanted to find ways to contribute to the effort. Here, we see the call for funds through war bonds — investing money now for the war by buying bonds that could be cashed in after the end of the war. The school decided to raise money for the Alumni Victory Pool.

After the war, the work of the Alumni Association became more formalized. Stories about alumni activities became a more regular part of the Towerlight. Awards become standard parts of the annual Alumni Day Banquet which celebrated milestone reunions for every graduating class.

Program shows front of Stephens Hall and the following words: MSNS 1907 Fifty Golden Years TSTC 1957
Class of 1907’s 50th Reunion program

There was finally enough money to not only sponsor programming and events, but the Alumni Association could hire an Executive Secretary to help keep all the records organized.

The 1962/1963 Alumni Association Board. The woman standing in the back is Beverly Crook, Executive Secretary.

By the 1980s banquets and celebrations had grown from evenings to full weekend celebrations, often centered around Homecoming. Also in the 1980s, the Alumni Association began publishing a magazine featuring stories celebrating the accomplishments of Towson alumni.

Photo of people sitting on bleachers. One woman is wearing a sweatshirt that says "Towson State"
Pages from November 1983 issue of Towson Today alumni magazine.

While there were few events outside of the Alumni weekend held on campus for alumni, they were invited to attend sporting events, performing arts events, gallery events, lectures, and to join the University Club as well as donate money during the annual phonathon campaign.

In the 1990s, realizing that Towson alumni now lived far from Maryland, mini-reunions began popping up in various cities across the country, inviting former students to meet, regardless of their year of graduation.

a rivalry going on in the stands, but the Orioles hung in there and whipped the Phillies. On August 8, alumni and friends joined us for Family Day at Somerton Springs Golf Center, owned by alumnus, Bob Cardea '93. The Tiger Moon Bounce was a real hit for younger future alumni, although it was not so easy to get the alumni staff out of there either. Families enjoyed a full day of fun at the miniature golf facility, driving ranges and batting cages. New York Club On July 15, 20 alumni met at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City to discuss club planning and future events. The initial meeting of the New York Club was quite a success. The Big Apple Club fosters energy like no other. Needless to say the alumni in NYC wore us out quickly. Future activities may include a New York Knicks game, a New York Saints indoor lacrosse game, an evening at the theater, or even a camping trip. Discussion also included tailgating at a Towson Tiger vs. Hofstra game, an evening of bowling or participating in entertainment activities at Chelsea Pierce. A Baltimore Orioles vs. the New York Yankees game in 1999 sparked real interest. Just like the city itself, this chapter is bound to be non-stop. Photo of the New York Alumni Club. Left to right; front row: Brooks Shumate '90, Rachel Pincus '93, Debbie Doctofsky '92, Danielle Davis '89, Christine Roehrich '94; second row: Michele Meyd '98, Rachel Weintraub '95, Meredith Fagan '97, Paul Brock '97, Clarissa Rosario '92; third row: Eric Goldberg '96, Doug Popper '95, Penelope Lee '98, Reid Mitnick '96, Brian Kaplan '93. San Francisco Club On July 22, San Francisco Alumni Club members met at the Hyatt at Fisherman's Wharf to reel in ideas and plan future events. Eleven graduates from 1952 to 1995 reminisced about their days at Towson State Teachers College and Towson State University. The alumni in the Bay Area really span the spectrum, but they all have one thing in common: Towson is dear to their hearts. Members of the chapter expressed their yearning for Baltimore crabs. Apparently, San Francisco crab houses haven't discovered Old Bay yet. Our future plans include a social gathering with crabs shipped in from Maryland and a professional sporting event. San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix Clubs Towson University goes west. Look for more information in your mail for these club and alumni reception events for January 28, 1999 — February 2, 1999. If you live in any of the areas mentioned above, please call the Office of Alumni Relations at 1-800-887-8152 or e-mail alumni@ towson.edu to become involved. Career Corner and Career Services The Alumni Association's Career Services committee is planning Career Day '98 in cooperation with the Towson University Career Center. Career Day '98 will be for all students and recent graduates and will be held on Thursday, November 19 from 1 p.m. — 4 p.m. in the University Union. Services include career previews, resume building, discussion groups and
1998 Towson magazine page detailing various alumni meetings in New York and California.

As the school has grown, the Alumni Association and the Office of Alumni Relations has sought ways to continue to engage our growing body of alumni. Rather than concentrating on one long weekend or event, alumni gatherings have become more frequent and diverse. During the 2018/2019 academic year, alumni could choose to spend the day together at Hersheypark or on a ski trip. They could meet current students at meetings with various diversity organizations or offer their experiences as part of career events, or attend arts or sporting events. There were crab feasts and brewery visits, and trips to Annapolis to tell legislators how much TU has meant to former and current students. Faculty and staff members who are also alumni had their own mixer. And, of course, the Class of 1968 celebrated their 50th reunion.

Today marks the beginning of our spring commencement ceremonies, which of course means that Towson University alumni will grow by the thousands during the three-day event. Not only will they be graduates of a school with a long and rich history, but the Alumni Association they will now be part of has just as long a tradition.
Welcome to our newest Towson University alumni!

Photo of 6 women wearing graduation regalia standing on the steps of Stephens Hall. Four of them hold large balloon numbers 2019 above their heads.
Photo courtesy of TU’s Photographic Services
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