Delana Gregg is assistant director of the Sondheim Public Affairs Scholars Program.
We walk by the Sondheim statue daily, glancing at his quotations about integrity and humility. But who was Sondheim? And why is the man immortalized in bronze on this campus?
The statue was erected and the Sondheim Building named in honor of Walter Sondheim, Jr. and his wife Janet in 2005, and a video was unveiled detailing Walter’s legacy of service to the City of Baltimore and the State of Maryland.
Walter Sondheim, Jr. was a businessman–vice-president of a Baltimore department store–who never held elected office. He was a civic leader and an agent of change. He served as the chair of the Baltimore City School Board, and quickly moved city schools to desegregate after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court Decision. He is perhaps better known for his leadership of the revitalization of Baltimore’s downtown and the Inner Harbor. I can’t imagine Baltimore today without Walter Sondheim’s impact and legacy.
UMBC’s Sondheim Public Affairs Scholars Program began in 1999 and since that time, over 100 alumni and the current 58 Sondheim Scholars have been inspired by the values of Walter Sondheim. They are his living legacy: teachers, social workers, lawyers, policy makers, and engaged members of their communities.
UMBC’s Sondheim Scholars volunteer in the Baltimore community weekly for their entire first year of college, learning about the challenges facing neighborhoods and schools.Sondheim Scholars also intern in non-profits, state, local, and federal government, law offices and public schools. They research the pressing problems of society, and are trained at UMBC to go into their communities to address these issues, through their careers and through their commitment to improve the world around them.
At the statue and building dedication ceremony, UMBC President Freeman A. Hrabowski, III said, “Walter Sondheim embodies the values that the UMBC community treasures most. He is a visionary leader who cares deeply about children, families and education in Baltimore. The statue and building we dedicate in his honor will stand for a long time. But a more fitting and lasting tribute will be the Sondheim Public Affairs Scholars who bear his name as they serve the public and make a difference to generations to come.”