Dr. Alice L. Kempner, a former Baltimore County public schools principal who later became an assistant area superintendent for county schools, died Oct. 25 from heart failure at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The former longtime Catonsville resident was 97.
“Alice was a leader who ruled with a velvet glove. She administered with kindness, but at the same time was a strong disciplinarian,” said Dr. Robert Y. Dubel, who headed Baltimore County public schools for 16 years before retiring in 1992. “She was a proponent of our anti-drug and anti-alcohol programs and she enforced them both very strictly. She also was a strong advocate of our disciplinary code.”
The former Alice Louise Lindeman, the daughter of Carl Lindeman, an artist, and his wife, May Daley Lindeman, a businesswoman, was born in the Bronx, New York, and raised in the Pelham Bay neighborhood.
After graduating from Hunter Hugh School in 1940, she entered Hunter College, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1944. She obtained a master’s degree in education in 1963 from the Johns Hopkins University, and an advanced certificate in education in 1968, also from Hopkins. In 1976, she earned her doctorate from Nova-Southeastern University in Davie, Florida.
She moved to Baltimore in 1950, and before beginning her teaching career in 1955 at Woodlawn Elementary School - where she taught 3rd and 6th graders for nine years - she worked as a correspondent for the Prentice Hall Publishing Co. in New York City.
Dr. Kempner was appointed assistant principal at Woodmoor Elementary School in 1963, and six years later, became principal of Carney Elementary School. She headed Pinewood Elementary School for a year before being named area assistant superintendent for schools in Northwestern Baltimore County and later for central area schools.
“I had known Alice since 1973 when she was a principal and I was always impressed with her whenever I visited her schools,” Dr. Dubel, a Glen Arm resident, said. "And I thought if ever I have a chance to promote her, I will. She was the first female assistant superintendent that I ever had. The five others were men and I thought we needed a female influence there."
Dr. Kempner was a strong advocate of the school system’s Challenge of Excellence Program that was established by Dr. Dubel.
“She was a leader in pushing that program and set a high bar for everyone and totally believed in it,” Dr. Dubel said. "She led the push in implementing the program that guided the staff, principals and teachers."
He also praised Dr. Kempner for her grammar skills.
“She was my top grammar cop and Alice insisted in correctness in all matters,” he said.
"She had been a master teacher and as a principal and established traditions related to individualized instruction, high academic achievement, and community programs. She had a personal commitment to the arts and encouraged principals to provide a broader array of educational experiences for students,” Dr. Kempner wrote in a biographical profile.
“She played a major role designing and developing the Administrative Training Program which served as a state model. She also helped design and initiate a doctoral program at the Johns Hopkins University,” she wrote.
Dr. Kempner was seldom in her office at Baltimore County public schools headquarters at Greenwood. “Alice loved visiting schools, teachers, students and parents,” Dr. Dubel. When she was in the office, she worked long hours.
“Alice’s office was on the first floor and mine was on the second,” he said. “She had a propensity for working late, and one night, around six, she called and said, ‘This is Alice Downstairs,” and whenever I called her, I’d say, ‘This is Bob Upstairs.’"
The former longtime Catonsville resident moved to Edenwald Senior Living in Towson in 2008.
“I live on the ground floor at Glen Meadows Retirement Community and Alice lived on the fifth floor at Edenwald,” Dr. Dubel said. “So, whenever she called me she’d say 'This is Alice Upstairs,” and I became Bob Downstairs. She had a delicious sense of humor.”
Dr. Kempner had been a member for 50 years of the MU Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, an honorary education group for women, and had been a member and president of Pi Lamba Theta, an honorary educational society. She had been a member of the board of the American Cancer Society and junior Achievement.
At Edenwald, she was a member and chair of the education committee, a book club member, a floor representative and sje participated in its theater group.
Dr. Kempner, who was a member of the Turf Valley Women’s Golf League, was also an opera fan and theatergoer. She enjoyed lively political discussions, studying astronomy, reading, travel and working for educational reform, her daughter said.
Her husband of 58 years, Herbert Kempner, an electrical contractor, died in 2003.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17 at Edenwald, 800 Southerly Road, Towson.
In addition to her daughter. Dr. Kempner is survived by a son, Russell S. Kempner of Ellicott City; a daughter, Jane L. “Janie” Daniels of Charleston, South Carolina; two grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.