Marian G. Stanton, co-founder of Sojourner-Douglass College

Marian Stanton, a co-founder and provost of Sojourner-Douglass College, died Oct. 28.
Marian Stanton, a co-founder and provost of Sojourner-Douglass College, died Oct. 28. (Handout)

Marian G. Stanton, a co-founder and provost of the old Sojourner-Douglass College who oversaw the school’s expansion into the Bahamas campus, died Oct. 28 of renal failure at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

The Northeast Baltimore resident was 76.


“She was dedicated, loved the community, and was dedicated to community self-deterimination. The idea was to create a college that was managed by people from the community,” said Charles W. Simmons, who was a co-founder of what was then the Homestead-Montebello Center of Antioch College, which in 1980 became Sojourner-Douglass College, an independent four-year institution.

“She was quiet but determined, but you knew all the time her mind was always working and thinking about how to make things better,” he said. “She was sweet, pleasant and positive.”


“I worked with her for 26 years and got to know her quite well, and when I think of her, I remember a woman of grace, poise and stature who had confidence in me,” said Teresa Hall-Cooper, who taught a course on urban leadership at the college.

“Her very presence commanded respect. I loved to hear her speak the King’s English because it had such a melodious sound to it,” Dr. Hall-Cooper said.

The college took its name from two seminal figures in African-American history: Sojourner Truth, a well-known 19th-century abolitionist, and Frederick Douglass, the former Talbot County slave and ship’s caulker who became a noted orator, abolitionist, diplomat and newspaper editor.

“She was committed to that concept to improve and empower the community, and she worked day and night, loved what she was doing, and the students loved her,” Dr. Simmons said. “She was quite a person and is a legacy.”

The daughter of Melvin Stanton, a deliveryman, and Georgia Penn Stanton, a Sheppard Pratt psychiatric nurse, Marian Gondola Stanton was born in Baltimore and raised on Aisquith Street.

After graduating in 1959 from Dunbar High School, she earned a bachelor’s degree from what is now Coppin State University, a master’s from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and a doctorate in education from Union Graduate School in Cincinnati in 1976.

According to a sister, Serena Howell of Baltimore, Dr. Stanton’s interest in education began when she was a 6-year-old and enjoyed playing school with her siblings.

Dr. Stanton taught in Baltimore public schools and at St. James and St. John parochial school on Eden Street, before co-founding with Dr. Simmons in 1972 what would eventually become Sojourner-Douglass College. She and Dr. Simmons became acquainted when they were both graduate students at Antioch and Union Graduate School.

She also played an instrumental role beginning in the late 1980s and continuing into the 1990s in the establishment of the college’s campus in Nassau, Bahamas.

In addition to being vice president of academic affairs, Dr. Stanton served as director of counseling and dean of academic and student affairs at Sojourner-Douglass.

Most classes at the college, which was located in the 500 block of N. Caroline St., were held in the evenings and on weekends.

“Sojourner-Douglas’ learning strategies are designed to inculcate systematic and sequential study of principles, issues, and problems and situations in the community,” according to a 1980 Afro-American newspaper article.


“She’d bring food for her students on Tuesday nights, and her classroom was right across the hallway from mine. She was teaching an education seminar class,” said Dr. Hall-Cooper, a Catonsville resident who retired from the college in 2015. “She’d ask if I’d like some food, so on Tuesday nights, I always ate quite well.”

Leonard F. Spain, who was a student at the college from 2009 to 2015, studied human services with Dr. Stanton.

“She was tough and she wanted you to learn, and she was very big in making sure you understood the material,” said Mr. Spain, a West Baltimore resident who is a violence prevention specialist at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

“And the way she taught, you were able to make changes in your community. She had a very unique way of teaching,” he said. “She was also very good when it came to teaching Afro-American males. She was quiet but friendly, and enjoyed talking with students.”

“She had compassion and was caring when she spoke to students but could be very firm,” Dr. Hall-Cooper said. “I always said she had a little cayenne pepper in her voice, but she was loving and respectful.”

W. Paul Coates, an author, recalled Dr. Stanton in an online post earlier this year titled “In Appreciation: Six Teachers, Many Lessons Learned.”

“Several years after serving in the military and engaging in various other endeavors, such as my involvement with the Black Panther Party and later the founding of the Black Panther Press, I enrolled in classes at Sojourner-Douglass College,” he wrote. “My teacher and adviser there was Dr. Marian Stanton. She had a quiet way of moving you along.

“I had been there two years and wasn’t doing that much when she said, ‘You do know, Mr. Coates, that you have to graduate at some point.’ A year after my conversation with her, I graduated from Sojourner-Douglass with a bachelor of arts in community development and education,” Mr. Coates wrote.

The college lost its accreditation in 2014, and when it closed the next year, Dr. Stanton retired.

“She continued to volunteer at the college, as do I,” Dr. Simmons said. “We are working with other institutions such as Bethune-Cookman University. We’re still trying to make something happen.”

Dr. Stanton was an avid reader and enjoyed sketching, as well as writing poetry, short stories and plays. She was also an excellent cook and was known for her codfish cakes, cherry chicken, and baked and stuffed fish dishes, family members said.

A service celebrating her life will be held at 11 a.m. Nov. 18 at 5438 York Road in Govans.

In addition to her sister, Dr. Stanton is survived by a son, Michael Johnson of Baltimore; three daughters, Joanne Stanton and Joyce Johnson of Northeast Baltimore, and Glenda Johnson of Columbia; two brothers, George Stallings II of Cecil County and Theodore Nelson of California; a stepbrother, George Stallings Jr. of Baltimore; three other sisters, Toni Holley of Chase, Ella Peterson of Randallstown and Teri Whidby of Baltimore; 14 grandchildren; and 17 great-grandchildren. Her marriage to Howard Johnson ended in divorce.

Baltimore Sun researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

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