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A foundation for advancement [Letter]

We are writing in response to the June 30 Baltimore Sun article "Equality's Struggles," featuring Esther McCready, a 1953 graduate of the University of Maryland School of Nursing. The article's sub-head, "Setting the Foundation," could not be more appropriate. For the past 60 years, the foundation set by Ms. McCready's courage and fortitude has continued to open doors not only for African-American nursing students but for minority students in all the professional schools (dentistry, law, medicine, pharmacy, and social work) at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB).

Small in stature and soft in voice, Ms. McCready had no idea how her initial letter of interest to the School of Nursing in 1948 would impact generations to come. She did not set out to make history, but that is what she did. The school of nursing currently boasts a minority enrollment of 37 percent, of which 53 percent are African-American. The UMB campus enrollment includes 37 percent minority students, more than a third of whom are African-American. Prestigious African-American nursing alumnae such as Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, MS '99, chief nurse officer, U.S. Public Health Service, and Ruby L. Wesley-Shadow, PhD '87, RN, associate chief of nursing education and research, Washington, D.C. VA Medical Center, were able to reach their goals due to Ms. McCready's "can do" spirit and pioneering efforts.

All these years later, Ms. McCready still attends School of Nursing events and has served on the school's Board of Visitors. Students of all races clamor to meet her when she visits the school. Our Living History Museum (one of few museums in the nation located in a nursing school) boasts an exhibit dedicated to Ms. McCready. We are very proud to count Esther McCready among our 20,000 University of Maryland School of Nursing alumni.

We at UMB are also very proud to count as one of our own another Baltimore civil rights leader featured in "Equality's Struggles." Larry Gibson is much more than a professor of law. Guided by his own struggles growing up in segregated Baltimore, Mr. Gibson has been a forceful advocate for equality, serving in the U.S. Justice Department, and as campaign manager and advisor to many local, state and national political campaigns. His research and writings have brought to vivid life the legacy of slavery and the history of civil rights in Maryland, most notably the amazing story of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, which Mr. Gibson eloquently describes in his book, "Young Thurgood: The Making of a Supreme Court Justice."

The University of Maryland, Baltimore is committed to addressing the call for a professional workforce that better reflects the demography of our city, state and nation. To that end, we are deeply engaged in a number of pipeline initiatives intended to excite and prepare our youth for opportunities in health, law and social work. The stories of Esther McCready and Larry Gibson, and their contributions to our university, remind us that we must never lessen that commitment.

Dr. Jay A. Perman and Jane M. Kirschling, Baltimore

The writers are president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and dean of the University of Maryland School of Nursing.

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To respond to this letter, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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