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Obituaries

Jonathan England, University of Maryland professor and father of four, dies

Jonathan England began teaching at the University of Maryland in 1997.

Almost as much as he enjoyed coaching quarterbacks and special teams at Bowie State University and several high schools in Maryland, Jonathan England had an affinity for baseball. He especially loved the Washington Nationals, attending the club’s first game at RFK Stadium on April 14, 2005, acquiring season tickets and celebrating the team’s first World Series championship last October.

“We stayed up all night watching the [title-clinching] game, and he wanted to wake my son, who was asleep,” Adrienne England recalled with a laugh. “So he was a huge Nats fan.”

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Mr. England died June 1 at his home in Columbia of a heart attack. He was 47.

The death of Mr. England, a popular professor within the African American Studies Department at the University of Maryland in College Park, stunned the academic community. Dozens of students, faculty and alumni gathered Tuesday night for an impromptu vigil to pay tribute to Mr. England, according to The Diamondback, the university’s campus newspaper.

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“I realized how he’s been such an integral professor in so many other students’ lives as well,” said Erica Puentes Martínez, 25, of Baltimore, who took three courses with Mr. England as the professor. “So many students were talking about how he was one of the professors who believed in them and pushed them, and I recognized that experience as well. Professor England was just a great man, and he was always spreading that love to everybody, and that’s what I really admire about him.”

Mr. England was adopted by Charles William and Judy England. With Charles William England serving as a chaplain in the Navy and Air Force for a total of 25 years, the family moved to several different states before settling in Clinton, Maryland. Mr. England graduated from Oxon Hill High School in 1991, the University of Maryland in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in government and politics, and the Johns Hopkins University in 1997 with a master’s degree in policy studies.

Mr. England began teaching at his alma mater in 1997. Jason Nichols, a full-time lecturer in the African American Studies Department who first met Mr. England in 1998, said Mr. England’s ethnicity was never an obstacle in the department.

“He was an authentic person, comfortable in his own skin,” Nichols said. “A lot of people think, ‘Oh, he’s a white guy teaching African American studies? He’s going to play a role.’ Jonathan was most comfortable in his skin and understood his whiteness. It wasn’t to get praise from people of color. He wasn’t smug. He was just himself, and that was so amazing. He was loved by everybody. I’ve seen people do things out of white guilt, but there was none of that. He was who he was. He was devoted to justice and wanted to see a better, more equitable society.”

Ms. Puentes, who is working as a faculty assistant within the department and graduated a few weeks ago with a bachelor’s degree in American studies added to the first bachelor’s degree she earned in African American studies in 2018, said Mr. England provided encouragement and “tough love” equally.

“We have professors that are invested in your growth, and Professor England epitomizes that sort of professor that you will find in the African American Studies Department or the U.S. Latina/Latino Studies Department,” she said. “Professors like him are the reason why I decided to major in African American studies in the first place because he was one of the people who really made it like a family. He was not just there as a professor, but he was there as someone who could guide you.”

Adrienne England said she and her husband met via Match.com in 2007 before getting married Aug. 2, 2008, in Bermuda. While she said she fell in love with her husband’s quick wit, the couple could not agree on music — she enjoyed contemporary pop and hip-hop and her husband preferred go-go music, old-school R&B and gospel.

“He would roll his eyes at the music I enjoyed, and I would do the same to him,” she said. “It was kind of an ongoing joke.”

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Ms. England said her husband welcomed her 18-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, Ryann Evans, now a sophomore guard on the East Carolina women’s basketball team, as his own. Mr. England regaled the couple’s three boys — Jamison, 10; Austin, 7; and Carson, 5 — with bedtime stories involving a fictional character he created named “T.O. Campanero.”

“Sometimes they were silly, but there was usually some type of lesson or moral,” Adrienne England said through tears. “They really looked forward to the ‘T.O.’ stories.”

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Mr. Nichols said Mr. England was a mesmerizing speaker, keeping students in large lecture halls engaged and interested. On a personal level, Mr. Nichols credited Mr. England with consoling him after the death of his mother in 2016 and encouraging him in April to go outside when he struggled with the state’s stay-at-home order.

Mr. Nichols said the plan was for Mr. England to run for a seat on the Howard County school board in 2022 with Mr. Nichols serving as his campaign manager. Mr. Nichols said he even tried to persuade Mr. England to apply to chair the African American Studies Department.

“He was the tie that bound all of us,” Nichols said. “He was the person that was close to the students, all of the people in administration loved him, and of course every single member of the faculty loved him. He was the most organized, confident person in leadership, to be honest, and that’s what kept us together.”

Adrienne England said her husband was proud to be a Terp, but took a special delight in his students.

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“That was the thing that he bragged most about in terms of being a part of the University of Maryland,” she said. “Jonathan was the type of person who enjoyed going to work each day. He was out the door and just ready to greet his students and teach his students and just share what we could with them. So being part of the University of Maryland was very important to him.”

Besides his wife and children, Mr. England is survived by his mother, Judy England, and sister, Judith Allmond England of Bentonville, Arkansas.

Burial plans are undetermined.


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