Doleman honoree says he was born to be a teacher

February 22, 2012|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE |
  • Retired educator Leon Brumback, 73, of Hagerstown will be recognized Sunday for his years of service in education during the Celebration of Black History at The Maryland Theatre.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

“It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Brumback, 73, said. “I was always meant to be a teacher.”

Raised in Hancock, Brumback was bused with other black students to North Street School in Hagerstown, the only black school in the county. He spent 11 years there before Washington County schools integrated, and he graduated from Hancock High School in 1956.

That fall, Brumback attended Hagerstown Junior College. He earned his associate of arts degree in 1958, making him the college’s first black graduate. He then transferred to Frostburg State Teachers College (today known as Frostburg State University). He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1961, becoming Frostburg’s first black graduate, too. He also earned a Master of Education degree in 1967 from Frostburg.

Breaking educational barriers is a part of why Brumback will be honored Sunday, Feb. 26, during the third annual Doleman Black Heritage Museum’s Celebration of Black History at The Maryland Theatre in downtown Hagerstown. Doors open at 4 p.m., with the event starting at 5 p.m.

Alesia Parson-McBean, project director/administrator for the Doleman Black Heritage Museum, said the event is a “celebration of Black History Month by bringing in historically black colleges and universities to the community.”

The evening will also feature Maryland state Sen. Joanne C. Benson, D-Prince George’s, who is also a Hagerstown native, and the music of Bowie State University Gospel Choir.

Brumback has been a longtime educator in Washington County Public Schools.

Washington County Public Schools is one of the sponsors of the third annual Celebration of Black History.

After earning his teaching degree, Brumback returned to Hagerstown to teach sixth grade at North Street School during the second half of the 1961-62 school year. It was the same school he left because of integration.

“I had to leave and I wasn’t able to graduate with my class,” he said.

He said it was nice coming “full circle.” The school closed in 1964, according to Herald-Mail archives.

He went on to teach at E. Russell Hicks, until he took a position of director of student activities at North Hagerstown High School in 1968. After a few years, he taught social studies, coached tennis and served as adviser to several classes.

As social studies teacher, Brumback introduced the county’s first black history course — the first, Brumback said. It was through his class that he met Marguerite Doleman, for whom the Doleman Black Heritage Museum is named. She died in 2000.

It was one of Brumback’s students, Vanessa Campher-Baker, who asked if Doleman could come to the black history class.

Brumback said he met Doleman and was able to experience her vast collection of artifacts related to black history first hand at her home.

“She was a passionate collector,” he said.

Brumback said he would like to one day see the Doleman Black History Museum get a permanent site.

“I’m hoping that what this group is trying to do comes to fruition,” he said. “I hope I’m around when it does.”

Parson-McBean said the museum is “continuing to find a way to make Mrs. Doleman’s collection accessible to the public.”

As another full-circle part of his life, Campher-Baker will introduce Brumback during the ceremony.

During his time as an educator, he was honored several times in his field. In 1992, the Maryland State Teachers Association cited Brumback for outstanding achievement and leadership. In 1994, he was Washington County’s Teacher of the Year and was a state Teacher of the Year finalist. That same year, Disney Corp. recognized him as one of America’s top 60 teachers.

In addition, he was named YMCA’s Black Achiever of the Year in 1993 and he also received Frostburg State University’s highest award, the Alumni Achievement Award.

Brumback retired in 1998 from WCPS after 38 years of service.

“I miss the interaction with the students,” he said.

Brumback said he continues to keep busy. He served for five years as co-president of the Washington County Retired Educational Personnel Association. He is now chairman of the association’s scholarship and picnic committees. He is also the chairman of Hagerstown Community College Foundation’s scholarship committee.

Brumback never had any children but said “my students are my kids.”

Through his community work, he said he runs now into his former students, their children, and now their grandchildren.

Although he’s not tech-savy, Brumback can be found on Facebook. He said he’s been able to reconnect with many of his former students.

As for Sunday, Brumback is looking forward to the Celebration of Black History.

“To be part of the celebration,” he said. “It’s an honor.”

If you go ...       

WHAT: Doleman Black Heritage Museum’s Celebration of Black History

WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 26; doors open at 4 p.m., show at 5 p.m.

WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown

COST: $10


By Yvette May/Staff Photographer
Retired educator Leon Brumback, 73, of Hagerstown will be recognized Sunday for his years of service in education during the Celebration of Black History at The Maryland Theatre.

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