Amanda Lipitz hopes her documentary “Step” will show a side of inner-city Baltimore not usually found in today’s headlines.
UPDATE: Final score – Gilman 35, McDonogh, 28.
In the world of Baltimore prep school sports, it promises to be the game of the weekend, if not the century.
Since October 12, 1914, this annual football game between two local rival prep schools has occurred almost uninterrupted, save for outbreaks of infantile paralysis and influenza in the early 1900s. So this Saturday, November 7, 2015, as McDonogh and Gilman meet before a large and possibly record-breaking crowd at the John McDonogh Stadium to mark the 100th game between the two athletic powerhouses, it will, in a sense, be business as usual.
Baltimore’s public and private schools join forces to make a difference through education.
On a blindingly sunny day in June, at precisely 8:15 am, a couple of packed school buses pull up to the curb of St. Paul’s Middle School in Brooklandville and deposit around 110 elementary- and middle school-aged children onto the sprawling bucolic private school campus. As they file out, the riders are greeted by several volunteers—high school students from St. Paul’s—and counselors who they animatedly “high five.”
Last January, Dr. Leana S. Wen took the reins from Dr. Oxiris Barbot as Baltimore City Health Commissioner. Being responsible for the health of the entire city seems like a gargantuan charge, especially for someone barely 30. But given Wen’s accomplishments to date—she entered college at 13, studied public health and health policy as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, served on an advisory commission to Congress regarding graduate medical education, worked as an attending physician in a busy emergency room, gave four popular TED and TEDMed talks, wrote a critically-acclaimed book When Doctor’s Don’t Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests, to name a few—she’s probably up to the task.
This week, popular entertainment network Nickelodeon debuted Wallykazam!, a brand-new TV show with a twist. It’s the network’s first animated series targeting preschoolers that embeds a literary curriculum into a full-length story. The show cunningly squeezes in the literacy lessons via Wally, a troll who waves his magic stick to make words come to life. Some Baltimoreans may recognize the voice of wordsmith Wally as that belonging to 12-year-old Thomas Langston, a sixth grader at Gilman School.
Roland Park resident Langston is no stranger to the entertainment business. He appeared in Clint Eastwood’s feature film, J. Edgar. TV credits include a role as Tommy in an episode of Law & Order: SVU as well as a young Thomas Adams in the HBO production John Adams. He’s also acted in many regional theatrical productions. Recently, BaltimoreFishbowl caught up with Langston on one of his rare days off (thanks to inclement weather) to find out what it’s like to split time as a professional actor and a middle school student.
Tell me a little about the character Wally in the new series, Wallykazam!, whose voice belongs to you.
Wally is this outgoing troll who loves to play with his pet dragon, Norville. He loves to have these neat adventures with his friends, and he always tries to think up words that help with his adventures. His magic stick helps words come to life.
How do you prepare to play Wally?
Usually I have something to drink. Then I just warm up my voice and act like myself.
Ever been asked the question: Where’d you go to school? If you live in Baltimore, there’s a good chance this inquiry is not about the college you attended, but rather where you spent your formative years. Oftentimes, respondents will blurt out the name of the school to which they formed an indelible lifelong allegiance, oftentimes beginning as early as age 4 or 5. But sometimes, the school that one enters as a wee child turns out not to be a perfect match. Then what?
It’s a tough question that scores of Baltimore families face every year. But even when red flags wave in front of parents and their children signaling time for a change, it’s not always easy for families to do. Some fear disappointing generations of extended family members who’ve attended the same school. Others, originally convinced that they’d found the ideal school for their son or daughter, have a heck of a time mentally re-calibrating an image of a different academic setting that might be a better fit. So too do students. But it can be done.
Last Sunday, I watched as my 13-year-old daughter pored over the interactive, electronic map of Baltimore City, courtesy of Baltimoresun.com, that showed exactly where each shooting and stabbing had occurred over the past year. “Hmm. These are pretty close to where we live,” she said with cool detachment, as if she were studying for a geography test.
Although there were no fancy, clickable maps of Baltimore murders when I was young, I vaguely recall taking note of the homicide numbers in the newspaper at the end of each year. As of the last Sunday in December, this year’s number was up to 234. I’m sure there were a few more added by the end of the year.
As many major cities report downward trends in violent crime, Baltimore’s murder rate rises. “Lost Year for Fight against Violent Crime” read a headline in the Baltimore Sun last Sunday. The bodies are found behind broken-down row houses, floating in the harbor, and in plain sight. Most victims knew their assailant. Some, like the little boy not yet two years old who got caught in a spray of bullets intended for his father last May, didn’t.
We see the maps. We hear the reports. And after a while, whether adult or child, we become numb to the violence that rips, daily, through this city we call home. Until it hits too close to home.
For years, I’ve been on the email list that reports crimes and attempted crimes in our neighborhood. The emails typically consist of news regarding attempted car break-ins, followed by reminders to lock car doors and refrain from leaving purses in plain sight. Though it’s sort of creepy to think that while I and my family are asleep someone is mere feet away, peeking in my car and trying to open its doors, it never gives me too much pause. But the email I got this week, describing a forceful entry and burglary, did.
Stevenson University Pres Kevin Manning Transforms School from Tiny Commuter College to Residential University
Kevin J. Manning, PhD, is turning heads in Baltimore’s higher education community. Hailed by The Daily Record as an “Influential Marylander,” the president of Stevenson University has spearheaded a major makeover of the college—beginning with its name change—since taking over former Villa Julie College in 2000. He’s turned it from a tiny commuter college to a primarily residential university and doubled its undergraduate student body while maintaining its focus on career readiness.
An enlarged endowment of $55 million helped drive the school’s expansion, and the school also raised $20 million, undertaking between 2005 and 2009 its largest fundraising push ever. The campaign received leadership gifts from The France-Merrick Foundation, Joseph Keelty, members of the Stevenson board of trustees, key alumni donors, and several federal and state agencies.
Recently, we chatted with the 45-year higher education veteran. He shared the whats and whys behind the sweeping changes he’s overseen at the school, how Stevenson gets students to start thinking about life after graduation — as soon as they get to college — and more.
You have a B.A. in theater from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri. How’d you end up a university president?
I’m a New Yorker, but I went to Webster University in the 60’s as it was completing a theater building that would become the St. Louis Repertory Company. There are three or four of these buildings built in the 60’s by well-known theater designers. I was a founding staff member of the company, where I did both administrative work and some acting. I graduated in 1967 and taught theater at Webster. After I got married, I decided it was probably not realistic to stay in theater. Since then, all I’ve done in one form or another was to be in higher education administration.
Your tenure at Stevenson University has been marked by change. Did you know from the start that you would be leading so many transitions at the school?
When I came to Stevenson, keeping in mind this [higher education] is all I’ve ever done, I knew if we stayed the way we were we’d go out of business. Small commuter colleges just don’t have the resources that universities do.
Your mission to increase the size and scope of the college has come to fruition on many different fronts. Since 2001, enrollment of full-time students has jumped from 1,648 to 3,326; the endowment has risen from $24.6 million to $56.3 million, the sheer size of the school has jumped from 66 acres to 168 acres, and the number of staff has increased from 185 to 502. What’s been the impact of these expansions on interest from prospective students?
Between 2001 and 2013-14, applications have gone from 1,000 to nearly 6,000. And we now have record enrollments.
The new $7 million dollar, 3,500-seat football stadium that Stevenson erected—on its new Owings Mills campus, former site of the Baltimore Ravens training camp—clearly was part of an effort to transform the school from a commuter college into a residential university. What can you share about other aspects of Stevenson’s athletic programs?
We have a rather expansive extracurricular sports program. Over 750 students are involved in intercollegiate sports. We also have intramurals, probably 100 or so groups.
What are some lesser known innovations the college has undergone since you’ve been at the helm?
We’ve added a $2 million state-of-the-art mock courtroom and nursing simulated nursing laboratories. We just offered our first MOOC, a massive online open course. Started at Stanford, MOOCs are free courses. We offered a non-credit MOOC in forensic studies. We haven’t considered giving credit for MOOCs, but we have roughly six or seven masters and doctoral degrees online, in a hybrid model.
How has the university managed to expand during the period of fiscal uncertainty?
In 2008-2009, we froze all our budgets. We did not give salary increases. Everything’s related to enrollment or grants. Things are going well for us. It looks like we’ll be expanding next year. We would like to get to about 4,000 full-time students over the next five years.
Ever since Stevenson University was Villa Julie College, it’s been considered a ‘career-oriented’ school. How has the school maintained that reputation?
I can still remember the day, some 12 years ago, like it was yesterday. I simply pulled the hand-sewn, smocked, long white dress from the closet of my then-toddler daughter, asked her to lift up her dimpled arms over her head, then gently pulled the beautiful baptismal gown over her head and quickly buttoned it up her back. Sometimes I long for those days, when getting my daughter to wear a special occasion dress that we both agree on was a snap. Wishful thinking. After all, she is 13.
These days, our shopping trips typically go something like this. We walk into the junior department of a store, usually one that is dark and pulsating with bad techno music, and my daughter adopts somewhat of a frozen stance.
Then I, desperately scanning the racks for something that won’t make my 13-year-old look like a complete slut, pick up a few select items of clothing and ask her what she thinks.
After what seems like minutes, her face will scrunch up and she’ll say something like this: “You think I am going to wear something that hideous?”
Shopping for formal attire is an even bigger chore.
On a recent shopping trip—amid the plunging necklines, cut-out backs, and super-short hemlines that lined the racks—I managed to pull out a few dresses I thought were somewhat appropriate for a 13-year-old.
After a long blank stare, my daughter responded: “You have no clue what people my age wear these days.”
Then she proceeded to tell me that she has no intention of wearing a dress that is lacy or shiny or has a bow of any kind or one that ‘comes up too high’—as in the neckline. That narrowed our choices down to about three dresses, each of which she flatly rejected.
Needless to say, we came home empty-handed.
Feeling deflated, my daughter retreated to her iPad to search online for a dress. I took a temporary hiatus from the whole affair. But, finding myself at a department store without her a week later, I spotted a dress I thought was perfect. It was a sophisticated gold color, with a swingy skirt and a scalloped edge along the hem. The top was sleeveless with a shimmery neckline. I would have died to wear it, if I had the legs of a 13-year-old.
As a backup, I put on hold a simple, ice blue sleeveless dress with a scoop neck and a tasteful overlay of lace. I know, I know—she says she hates lace. But I thought maybe she would overlook it. I took a few pictures on my phone, back and front of the dress, to show her later—and to demonstrate to her that I did, after all, know a thing or two about dress shopping for young girls. I should have known better.
She vetoed both of them.