The Chesapeake College community is mourning the loss of Dr. George Silver, the college’s first president. Dr. Silver, 94, passed away on Jan. 27th in North Carolina.
As Chesapeake’s first president, Dr. Silver oversaw the launch and growth of Maryland’s first regional community college. Founded in 1965, Chesapeake is unusual in that it serves five counties.
Chesapeake College President Clifford Coppersmith lauded Dr. Silver’s legacy.
“We honor and remember Dr. Silver, a visionary and dedicated leader who was at the right time and place to build a foundation for higher education for the Mid-Shore. He will always be remembered as a founding figure for Chesapeake College,” Dr. Coppersmith said.
Dr. Silver was named president in July of 1966 and led Chesapeake through its crucial first decade.
“As the founding president, George Silver had to open the new college quickly in temporary quarters in Centreville and then oversee the design and construction of the campus. After more than 50 years his legacy can still be felt in the strength of Chesapeake’s academic programs and the beauty of the campus,” said Dr. Stuart Bounds, Chesapeake’s fourth president.
In addition to overseeing physical building of the campus, Dr. Silver had to build Chesapeake’s workforce by recruiting faculty and staff for the new college.
One of the instructors Dr. Silver hired 1971 was Dr. Ed Baker. The kinesiology professor and coach, who retired from his full-time post in 2014, still teaches two classes each semester as an adjunct. He has worked for all six of Chesapeake’s presidents.
“You couldn’t have chosen a better first president for Chesapeake than George Silver. He was a charismatic leader who was deeply invested in Chesapeake. No detail was too small for his attention,” Dr. Baker said.
The president was known to park in a different lot each day, Dr. Baker said, so that he could see campus from a variety of perspectives. With pad and pen in hand, Dr. Silver would note anything that needed attention or improvement on the morning walk to his office. The college maintenance department heard from Dr. Silver daily and knew that issues should be corrected by the end of the workday.
“He was a detailed and decisive leader, but he also had a huge heart,” Dr. Baker said. “As a coach and teacher, I tried to follow the example he set. Yes, you must be disciplined and decisive, but our role in education is also to help our students whenever we can. We have to support our students, especially when they’re struggling.”
Dr. Richard Midcap, a former Chesapeake vice president and now president of Garrett College, interviewed Dr. Silver as part of an historical project at the college.
“Dr. Silver was one of the driving forces that helped turn the idea of a regional community college into a reality. I was fortunate enough to get to know Dr. Silver after his retirement, and his love of Chesapeake College never waned – he always wanted to know the latest about what was happening at the college,” Dr. Midcap said. “He provided such great leadership as Chesapeake’s first president, and I think we all owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude.”
To make a donation in Dr. Silver’s memory, please visit https://www.chesapeake.edu/chesapeake-college-foundation/donate-now
Read Dr. Silver’s obituary here:
Remembrance from retired English Professor Lynn Hildenbrand
Dr. Silver had been an administrator at Meredith College (Raleigh, NC) in the mid-1960’s when I was an undergraduate there. He rode horses at the college’s riding stable, as I did, and I got to know him then. He also ate lunch in the dining hall, and I often served the faculty table. He told me he had taken a new position at a community college on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and If I ever wanted to teach there, I should let him know. The college had not even started yet, and he was to be in on the planning. I thanked him, but I didn’t think much about it over the next couple of years.
In 1969, as I was completing my Master’s degree at Wake Forest, I remembered his “offer,” and I wrote him a letter. He surprised me with a phone call, repeating his offer and asking if I preferred American or British literature. He offered me a job right there on the phone, with his wife Jane in the background telling him I might need time to talk to my parents and think about it. When I shared the news with my parents, my mother said, “Well, honey, you have to start somewhere.” And “somewhere” was Chesapeake College, where I started, at age 24, and ended 36 years later.
In those early years, Dr. and Mrs. Silver watched over me. In fact, he told me that they would like me to be the Sunday School teacher for high school girls at First Baptist Church in Easton, so I served in that capacity until I got married and moved.
I owe so much to Dr. Silver: the college job gave me my first taste of independence, my livelihood, many lifelong friends, my husband, and a wonderful place to raise our daughters.