Education pioneer honored

May 07, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

As William M. Brish looked over a 1973 Hagerstown Daily Mail clipping marking his retirement as Washington County school superintendent, he wondered who the young man was in the picture.

Then he smiled at his joke, reminding all at a Friday luncheon honoring him that he may be 92, but he's still sharp and full of life.

Brish was lauded Friday by the Washington County Retired Teachers Association, receiving a standing ovation from more than 100 members of the organization, most of whom were teaching when Brish was the boss.

"Every one of us in this room has been touched by Dr. Brish," said Sarah Row, a retired South Hagerstown High School teacher. "We appreciated working under such a wonderful superintendent. We felt like family."


Row recalled that Brish's motto during his 26-year tenure was "working together." So taking that theme, the retired teachers group created a unique plaque for Brish.

"His educational TV was the model that launched The Learning Channel," Row said. "Now he surfs the Internet."

A resident of Homewood in Williamsport, Brish joked that there must be some mistake that he was being honored.

"We always had a great time and I'm glad to be here," Brish said. "I love you all."

A Frederick County, Md., native, Brish accepted the job as school superintendent in Washington County in 1947.

At the time, there were more than 20 schools with no plumbing or heating. Because of World War II, there had been no school construction for many years.

School population was just 10,000 children in the late 1940s but that soon began to grow and never slowed down.

During his tenure, the school system began a kindergarten program, opened the Outdoor School and a vocational-technical center.

But perhaps he is best remembered for his pioneering of educational television, an innovation that was soon to become a model for other school systems in Maryland, the nation and eventually the world.

Through the Ford Foundation sponsorship, Brish traveled to India to set up an educational television system there. Later, the State Department sent other county teachers overseas to do the same.

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