BOWIE – Bowie State University honored a proud alumnus and lifelong supporter of education by giving his name to one of the buildings on campus.
On April 12, BSU faculty, staff, guests and students gathered to remember the late Del. James E. Proctor, Jr., a Bowie State graduate, and name the education building in his honor. The university is also starting a scholarship in Proctor’s name.
“Many buildings here are named after what they do, the function of that building, so we have the performing arts center, we have the student center, we have the Center for Learning and Technology,” said Rhonda Jeter-Twilley, dean of the College of Education. “After they’ve been here a while, they get seasoned a little while, someone says, it’s time for it to receive a name. We think there’s no more fitting a name than the name of James E. Proctor for our building.”
Present to accept the accolade was Proctor’s wife, Del. Susie Proctor, who took his seat in the House of Delegates, alongside fellow delegates and members of the Proctor family.
“As much as my family and I appreciate this award, and as grateful as we are for it, the greatest reward is to know that generations of students will be inspired by the Jim Proctor story and will use this magnificent facility to further their education,” Susie said. “Thank you so much for naming this the James E. Proctor, Jr. building.”
Susie said when she and her husband attended the school, Bowie State did not have many of the amenities students now enjoy, due in large part of lack of funding. But she said the school still left an indelible mark on her husband.
“Many of the students at the time were protesting on campus, protesting in Annapolis, trying to get resources for the school,” she said. “Back during that time, the resources at Bowie were sort of limited, but the nurturing support of the faculty and students was outstanding. Jim Proctor never forgot those acts of kindness.”
James worked at the National Institutes of Health early in his career - concurrent with attending BSU - and then became a teacher. He served as principal of Kettering and Andrew Jackson middle schools for a combined 17 years before being appointed to the House of Delegates in 1990. He won the subsequent election, and represented Prince George’s County District 47A for 20 years before his death in 2015. He rose to become vice-chair of the appropriations committee, which helped him to secure $200 million from the state for BSU over his career.
BSU President Mickey Burnim said he met with James at least once per session to discuss the university’s needs. James fought hard to make sure those needs were met, according to Burnim. And the family is continuing make sure students’ needs are met through the endowed scholarship set up in his name.
“We thank our alumni and donors who have given so generously to establish the James E. Proctor endowed fund,” he said. “In so doing, the Proctor family is making the pursuit of higher education possible for students at Bowie State University.”
Colleagues in the General Assembly spoke of how James Proctor helped them as well.
“We were like two peas in a pod in Annapolis,” said Del. Joseph Vallario (D-23B). “If you’re going to go to Annapolis, make sure you bring a Jim Proctor with you.”
County Executive Rushern Baker, III, said James taught him how to navigate the political climate in Annapolis to “get things done.” He also stressed that James’s kind of advocacy for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and public education funding more broadly, is needed now more than ever.
“We need a Jim Proctor right now. Think about it: what we’re going through at the state, especially at the federal level. We need a Jim Proctor,” Baker said.
“I think this is a fitting tribute to someone who you knew right away went to Bowie State” he continued. “He was a shining example of what we want not only as a legislator, not only as a principal, not only in a teacher, but a human being.”
Stephanie Proctor-Williams, Susie and James’s daughter, said education was one of her father’s highest values.
“I have been told that on numerous occasions, early in the morning, he was found with a book on his lap, his head against the crib and his hand on my back. That is how my father first communicated to me his highest values: family and education,” she said.
His grandsons added that James was also devoted to helping seniors and youth, especially with recreation opportunities. The new recreation center set to open in south county in 2018 was another of James’s pet projects.
With BSU celebrating 150 years this year, the Proctor family’s devotion to the school can serve as a model for current students.
“There is no alumnus who loved his alma mater more than Del. James E. Proctor, Jr.,” said Burnim. “But loving it is one thing – he did something to help.”