Lida L. Brown

  • Lida Brown web image

    Two early graduates of the school that evolved into the University of Maryland Eastern Shore were memorialized with their names emblazoned on buildings when the institution celebrated its 125th anniversary.  

    One is  Thomas W. Kiah , who as chief administrator guided his alma mater for 26 years to the cusp of becoming a baccalaureate degree-granting college. 

    Lida Brown, a young faculty member hired during the Kiah years, is the other.

    The year Brown matriculated from her home in Salem County, N.J. to Princess Anne Academy is unknown.

    She graduated in 1908 as valedictorian, which qualified her for a four-year scholarship awarded by the governing board of Morgan College in Baltimore. After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1912, Lida Lavinia Brown returned to the Eastern Shore, where she remained for 4½ decades.

    She also did summer study at the University of Pennsylvania, the Ivy League school known for its pioneering approach to educating black students.

    Her name appears routinely on faculty rosters as the academy gradually transitioned from a private, Methodist Episcopal prep school to public institution. She taught “domestic science,” English and Latin, providing liberal arts instruction at a land-grant school where most students enrolled to focus on learning a trade.

    In time, Brown moved from teaching to administration, serving as assistant to the dean of women and then as dean of women.

    When she retired in late 1957, she was “house mother” of  Murphy Hall , the first all-brick dormitory for women.  

    Colleagues and former students gathered in Waters Hall for a retirement banquet the Friday before Thanksgiving that featured testimonials praising her as a beloved fixture at her alma mater. The evening’s guest speaker was another boss, Robert A. Grigsby, who was Dean of Instruction during the 10 years he led Princess Anne College following Kiah’s death in December 1936.

    Seven months after her send-off, Brown died over Independence Day weekend in 1958 at her niece's Bridgeton, N.J. home. She was 70.

    Her retirement and her death warranted articles in local newspapers.

    The Marylander and Herald newspaper reported that Brown’s “passing signaled the close of an era in the development of education on the Eastern Shore. Lida, as she was affectionately called by intimates, personified ‘Walls of Ivy’ across the Chesapeake Bay.” 

    Leaders of then-Maryland State College named the building in her honor that houses the student health center, which was completed in 1966.

    Buildings named for people at 125.