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Donald E. Snodderly worked in the Baltimore County school system from 1953 to 1992, then spending a decade as a teacher mentor.
Donald E. Snodderly worked in the Baltimore County school system from 1953 to 1992, then spending a decade as a teacher mentor. (Courtesy photo)

Donald E. Snodderly, a veteran Baltimore County public schools principal who oversaw the implementation of federal educational programs during the 1960s, died Friday of heart failure at his Charlestown Retirement Community home.

“Don was a pioneer in developing proposals for federal aid to education for Baltimore County public schools that had been started by President Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960s. He was our staff project director,” said Robert Y. Dubel of Glenarm, who headed Baltimore County public schools for 16 years until retiring in 1992.

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“He had an affinity for children from low-income families and most of the federal programs dealt with those children, and as project director he was in charge of writing those proposals,” Dr. Dubel said.

“He was an all-business guy, but was very good when it came to interacting with teachers and students,” he said.

Donald Elvin Snodderly, the son of Sherman Snodderly, a Fairchild Aircraft mechanic and union leader, and his wife, Evelyn Baechtel, a homemaker, was born and raised in Hagerstown.

He was a 1949 graduate of Hagerstown High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1953 in education from the University of Maryland, College Park. He received his master’s degree in 1962, and a doctorate in 1972 both in education, from Maryland.

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Dr. Snodderly was drafted into the Army in 1951 and was stationed at Fort Holabird, where he worked in counterintelligence.

He began his teaching career in 1953 as an English teacher at Milford Mill Senior High School, and from 1963 to 1967 was vice principal at Sudbrook Middle School.

From 1967 to the early 1970s, he was principal of Johnnycake Junior High School, and was principal of the old Towsontown Junior High School for six years until its closing in 1979 because of declining enrollment.

“Donald E. Snodderly, the principal, said he was expecting something akin to tearing out the goal posts at the end of a football game and was ‘afraid students were going to rip the place apart,’ ” The Sun reported. “Instead, ‘all the energy went into say good-by. I even had a kid come up and get a hug from me.’ ”

As director of Baltimore County’s program for educationally deprived children, Dr. Snodderly testified in 1969 before a congressional committee and urged it to concentrate federal education spending in cities or other areas with high percentages of disadvantaged students.

“Some of our suburbs are made up of mostly white, conservative people who may not have enough concern for the needs of the disadvantaged,” Dr. Snodderly told the congressional committee in support of the extension of the Elementary Secondary Education Act, as reported in The Sun.

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Said Dr. Dubel: “Don was an early leader for civil and human rights. He was very adamant about that and particularly when it came to students.

“Human rights and sexism were big passions of his,” said his wife of 56 years, the former Paula Nicklas, a retired medical technician. “He was a strong, intelligent person who believed your life was your message.”

It was Dr. Snodderly’s desire to go back to being a principal and in 1982 he was named principal of Old Court Middle School, and eight years later, became principal of Lansdowne Middle School, from which he retired in 1992.

“He loved being in schools,” his wife said.

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“Don was always a strong academic leader, and he worked with us implementing our disciplinary code and our anti-drugs and anti-alcohol programs, and worked closely with the county police department. He had high expectations for his students,” Dr. Dubel said.

“We had a police officer in every middle school and this helped build respect for police officers at a time when students were at a very impressionable age and they learned that police officers were your friend,” he said.

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After retiring in 1992, Dr. Snodderly spent an additional decade mentoring Baltimore public schools teachers until retiring a second time in 2002.

He was an active member of First & Franklin Presbyterian Church, where he had also been an elder and continued to speak out on human rights.

The former resident of Baltimore County’s Villa Nova neighborhood was an avid gardener and traveler.

“His foremost hobby was people,” his wife said. “He was good when it came to relating to people and human development.”

Graveside services June 28 at Garrison Forest Veterans Cemetery are private and will be followed at noon by a gathering in honor of Dr. Snodderly’s life at the Charlestown Retirement Community, 715 Maiden Choice Lane, Catonsville.

In addition to his wife, Dr. Snodderly is survived by two sons, Max R. Snodderly of Reisterstown and Michael R. Snodderly of Rockville; a sister, Deborah Hoffman of Hagerstown; and six grandchildren.

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