From the first celebrity to the first Olympic athletes, these alumni left their marks on society and have earned a special place in the college’s history.
Maria Briscoe Croker 1891 (HS)
First Poet Laureate of Maryland
Maria Croker, nee Briscoe, was appointed the first Poet Laureate of Maryland in 1959. She graduated from St. Mary’s Female Seminary in 1891 and then Towson State Teachers College. She published three books of poetry and her poems have appeared in 50 anthologies.
Another Maryland Poet Laureate, Michael Glaser, is an emeritus faculty at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, while National Poet Laureate Lucille Clifton also taught at St. Mary’s.
Lettie Marshall (Dent) Gough 1911
First Female County-Level School Superintendent in Maryland
[picture caption: Miss Lettie, photographed here on May Day circa 1911, wearing a plain band in her hair]
“Miss Lettie” was the first female county-level Superintendent of Schools in Maryland, serving St. Mary’s County for 30 years from 1928-1957. During the entirety of her tenure, she was the only female superintendent in Maryland. Under her leadership and that of Dr. Robert E. King, Jr.,, the transition to integrated schools did not spark the sometimes violent unrest that plagued other Maryland counties.
Kay Gratton Aldridge ’34 (HS)
After graduating from St. Mary’s in 1934, Kay Aldridge began working as a model and appeared on covers of Life, Ladies’ Home Journal, Redbook, and Look, and was named one of the ten most photographed women in the world in 1937. She later played the starring role of Nyoka, the jungle woman, in the popular 1942 movie serial Perils of Nyoka.
Jean Tenney Gray ’34
First Alumna to Become National Archery Champion
Jean Tenney Gray was the first alumna to be the Women’s National Archery Champion, which she accomplished in both 1937 and 1938. She was Named Maryland’s Ideal Outdoor Girl in 1939 and was later inducted into the American Archery Hall of Fame.
Charles Birch ’35
First Male Graduate from the Junior College Division.
Charles Birch was the first male to graduate from the Junior College Division.
Elizabeth “Liz” Barber ’64
First African-American Graduate of St. Mary’s Junior College
Liz Barber was the first African-American graduate of St. Mary’s Junior College. She had the strong support of the Southern Maryland black community though her enrollment introduced a cultural revolution to the College, challenging the entire campus to rethink its approach concerning diversity issues.
Regina Combs Hammett ’64 ’72
First Author of a St. Mary’s County History Book
Regina Hammett, who holds two degrees from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2006. She is the author of History of St. Mary’s County, Maryland 1634-1990. About the book, former SMCM President Maggie O’Brien said, “nothing can now be written on any aspect of St. Mary’s County without first checking into Regina Hammett’s book.”
Donny Bryan ’73
First African-American Graduate of St. Mary’s College of Maryland
Donny Bryan was the first African-American graduate of St. Mary’s College of Maryland as a four year institution and a stand-out basketball player for the College team, where he was a four-year starter with a career total of 1079 points in 69 games. He went on to become head coach for St. Mary’s while working in Admissions and in the Dean of Students Offices.
Bruce Merritt ’84 and Scott Steele ’81
First Alumni to Be Olympic Athletes
Bruce Merritt won two gold medals and one silver medal in C-1 (one-man) canoeing at the 1978 national championships. Scott Steele qualified for national competition in windsurfing in 1979 along with Monty Spindler ’79. Their interest sparked a windsurfing craze on campus.