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Mary Robinson

The Baltimore Sun

Mary E. Robinson, a Head Start teacher and administrator who later served on the Baltimore City school board, died Thursday of complications from Alzheimer's disease at Sinai Hospital. The Ashburton resident was 76.

Born Mary Elizabeth Coleman in Memphis, Tenn., she earned a bachelor's degree in music at the University of Evansville in Evansville, Ind., an education degree from what is now Coppin State University and a master's degree from Morgan State University.

She also had a deep soprano voice and served as director of a Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church choir for 13 years, family members said.

"Everybody called her Aunt Mary. She was everybody's aunt, everybody's mother," said state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, a neighbor and close friend.

After moving to Baltimore in 1955, Mrs. Robinson taught elementary subjects at School 161, Saratoga and Schroeder streets.

"Her career took another turn when she became director of the Head Start program for Bethel AME Church," said Ms. Pugh.

When the Head Start program began to receive recognition, Johns Hopkins Hospital officials recruited her in 1968 to be director of the Martin Luther King Parent-Child Center, a pilot program jointly funded by the federal government, the old Community Action Agency and Hopkins. The center served children and parents from the Lafayette-Douglass Homes in East Baltimore.

"If we can get more programs like this," Mrs. Robinson told a Sun reporter in 1973, "there will ultimately be less people in our prisons. This is the best thing I've seen to get people out of poverty."

Friends said that her work received national attention, and she was hired by the Maryland State Department of Education. She later worked as associate director for clinical infant development at the National Institutes of Health. She studied the behavior of mothers, fathers and babies from dysfunctional families.

In 1992, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke nominated Mrs. Robinson to the city's Board of School Commissioners, where she served two terms.

Mrs. Robinson, who was active in numerous organizations, became a Morgan State volunteer and helped start the Presidential Scholarship Ball, an annual event she led for many years. She also founded a Morgan golf tournament and ran other fundraising events. In the 1980s, she became the school's assistant director of development and an assistant to the president. She retired in 2002.

Among her many affiliations were the Baltimore Chapter of the Links, the Big Sisters of Baltimore and the Epsilon Omega chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Empowerment Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church, 4221 Primrose Ave., where she was a member. A one-hour wake will precede the service.

Survivors include Charles C. Robinson, her husband of 52 years, who was formerly director of athletics at Lake Clifton High School and a public schools administrator; a son, Anthony W. Robinson, and a daughter, Charlotte Coleman Robinson, both of Baltimore; two brothers, Eddie Coleman of Virginia Beach, Va., and Millard Coleman of Evansville, Ind.; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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