Rowland L. Savage, former coordinator of Baltimore County Public Schools’ Office of Guidance and Counseling Services, who was known for his empathy in working with troubled students, died Aug. 8 from bladder cancer at the Gilchrist Center in Towson. The Bel Air resident was 77.
“Rowland saved many, many students,” said Robert Y. Dubel of Glen Arm, who was superintendent of Baltimore County schools for 16 years until retiring in 1992. “He had overcome a lot of obstacles in his own life, was an empathetic person, and was so devoted when it came to helping troubled students.”
Rowland Lee Savage, the son of Milton Savage, a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad chief dispatcher, and his wife, Dorothea Savage, a schoolteacher, was born in Baltimore and raised in Windsor Hills.
After attending the old St. Charles Seminary in Catonsville and then switching to other academic pursuits, Mr. Savage and earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1967 from Mount St. Mary’s College and a master’s degree in counseling and human development in 1974 from the Johns Hopkins University.
Drawn by a desire to help young people, Mr. Savage became a licensed national certified counselor and a licensed clinical professional counselor. In 1978, he obtained an advanced degree in clinical theory and therapy, also from Hopkins.
He began his professional career in 1969 teaching at Towson Catholic High School. He later worked as a guidance counselor and guidance department chair at Sparrows Point High School and Gen. John Stricker Junior High School.
From 1987 to 1993, Mr. Savage was a trainer in suicide prevention and depression in the state Department of Education’s Student Assistance Program. He was an assessor in the state Department of Education’s Principals’ Assessment Center from 1987 to 1995.
He was also an adjunct instructor in the education department of Loyola University Maryland from 1986 to 1991, a lecturer in the psychology department at Towson University from 1991 to 1992, and an adjunct instructor in Goucher College’s Master of Education program from 1994 to 1998.
For Baltimore County schools, he was an educational consultant for topics from 1985 until his retirement in 2005, which included crisis management, youth suicide prevention, bereavement counseling, conflict resolution, peer helper training, middle school issues, personality disorders, solutions and counseling strategies
From 1987 until 2005, he was project director for county schools’ Traumatic Loss Teams.
Mr. Savage was supervisor of guidance from 1982 to 1996 for Baltimore County Public Schools, appointed coordinator of the Office of Guidance and Counseling. The department provided supervision and leadership programs for 325 school counselors in 162 schools, a position he held until his retirement.
“Rowland followed me in the job in the Office of Guidance and Counseling when I went to Loyola University Maryland,” said Thelma Thomas Daley of Baltimore. “He was a wonderful person and very dedicated to his work and could impart that to the counselors in the field. he was a fine gentleman.”
Dr. Daley added: “He had great integrity, a great respect for people no matter what their diversity. He was a team player and had great moral standards and values.”
Lynne F. Muller, who is currently senior chief for Student Services and School Counseling for the state Department of Education, is a longtime friend and colleague.
“When Rowland retired, I followed him and held that position until 2011,” said Dr. Muller, a Towson resident. “He brought a great passion and empathy to the work. He was intelligent and a joy to work with.”
She recalled sitting with Mr. Savage watching the tragedy of 9/11 unfold on a small TV and then seeing him springing into action to get tips immediately out to school counselors, kids and parents in how to emotionally deal with the events.
Dr. Muller described him as an “irrepressible extrovert.”
“If he entered a room, within three minutes you were drawn to him. It was very exciting,” she said. “He brought a culture change that was so significant in addressing things that people didn’t talk about.”
Dr. Dubel said that when county schools launched an anti-alcohol and anti-drug campaign, Mr. Savage played a major role in its implementation and operation.
“We expelled students for those offenses, and Rowland arranged counseling,” Dr. Dubel explained. “They were put in an evening high school where they could earn their diploma, but they were not allowed to play sports. After a year, they were reevaluated, and if they were drug- and alcohol-free, could return to their old high school.”
The two men were proud of one such student they shared.
“Rowland counseled him and got him back on the tracks. He went back to his regular high school, received his diploma, and became an honors graduate at Duke University,” Dr. Dubel said.
Mr. Savage was a much-sought national speaker, and his work earned him many awards. In 1996, he was presented the Governor’s Citation for Service in Support of Youth Suicide Prevention, the Governor’s Award in 2001 for Outstanding Contributions to Suicide Prevention and in 2004 the Maryland School Counselor Association’s Counseling Advocate Award.
He was deeply involved with the congregation at St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church in downtown Baltimore, where he worked with homeless and was passionate about peace and social justice issues.
In retirement, he volunteered with the Harford County Public Library, the Maryland Center for the Arts, and WYPR Public Radio.
In addition to his wife of 50 years, he is survived by his son, Jason E. Savage of Columbia; a daughter, Kirsten D. Savage of Fort Collins, Colorado; a sister, Patricia Rock of Middle river; and two grandchildren.