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Making his Mom proud

  • 1991 UMES alum Roger Davis reaches the top of his profession

    Tuesday, March 24, 2020
    Photo by Tressa McCune

    For Marian Elizabeth Wilson Davis, being the mother of a college president is more than she envisioned when she adopted a 3-year-old boy in 1972. 

    In the early 1970s, Davis and her late husband, Belford, were in the midst of contemplating parenthood after learning that Marian could not conceive. 

    The Davises eventually adopted young Roger Wilson Davis, who grew up in Baltimore. 

    Roger, now 50, was elected president in 2019 of the Community College of Beaver County in Monaca, Pa. northwest of Pittsburgh. 

    Marian Davis, 91, grew up in rural Darlington in Harford County (30 miles north of Baltimore), the eighth of 10 children.  She attended segregated schools, and because black children were not allowed to ride the bus to school, she had to walk, she recalled. 

    “We were poor, but we didn't realize it,” she said. “We had the separate water fountains and bathrooms, but it was not as bad as the terrorism that folks faced in … the deep South - like Georgia, Mississippi or Alabama,” she said. 

    After graduating from Bel Air Colored High School in 1944, Davis matriculated to Morgan State College (now Morgan State University), where she graduated with a physical education degree.

    She enjoyed a 40-plus career as a physical education teacher in Calvert County and Baltimore County schools.  Her husband worked for Bell Telephone and AT&T, first as a janitor before retiring as a telephone booth coin-collector.  He died in 2008. 

    “I've outlived all my siblings, my husband and all my friends,” Davis said.  “Sometimes I feel lonely, but it's all right.” 

    One fateful day

    Davis remembers the day she and her husband decided to adopt Roger. She happened to turn on the television to a program on the CBS-Baltimore affiliate.  Roger was featured on a segment called “A Child is Waiting.” 

    “The little boy was on a tricycle and kept riding up to the TV camera.  He was just so sweet and adventurous.  I talked to my husband, made the necessary calls, and it happened,” she said, describing how the adoption came about. 

    The Davis family attended Union Bethel AME Church of Randallstown. Little Roger would perform Michael Jackson's “Moonwalk” step “in front of the whole church,” she remembered. 

    “I really thought he was going to be a minister. He spent so much time in church; he loved to sing, write and produce plays,” she said. 

    While attending Milford Mill High School, he played on the tennis team and realized the value of strong academics. 

    Roger was an excellent student, his mother said. 

    “His teachers said he was a very talkative youngster,” she said, “but he was a good student and always came home with good grades.” 

    Davis received his bachelor's degree in English from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in 1991, and then went on to earn a master's degree at Coppin State University and a doctorate of education at Morgan State University. 

    He was an associate dean and statistics professor at the University of Maryland University College (now Global Campus) in Adelphi for almost 20 years before moving on in 2016 to the Community College of Beaver County (CCBC). 

    Davis was the unanimously choice of CCBC's nine-member board of directors a year ago to serve as its ninth president - the first African-American to head the institution founded in 1966. 

    An emotional moment

    Genetha Woods-Short, an African American board member, delivered the news during the February 2019 board meeting.  Davis said the excitement she exhibited took him by surprise. 

    “She was so choked up with emotions, she could hardly make the announcement,” Davis said.  “I'm so humbled and really excited about what the future holds for all of us.” 

    Davis describes his childhood in the Woodmoor section of Baltimore County as healthy and loving. 

    He once met his biological mother, who answered questions that had bothered him for years. 

    “She explained that she was in an abusive relationship and couldn't raise four young children,” he said.  “I told her I was okay and had no regrets or blame toward her, and that God had led my path.” 

    Marian Davis advises prospective adoptive parents to adopt younger children before they become teenagers, if possible.  She also recommends being open and honest with adopted children. 

    “I told Roger he was adopted soon after we got him [at age three].”  She said she feels her honesty helped strengthen their bond. “I just feel blessed that it all turned out so well,” she said. 

    Davis embraces the chance to direct CCBC, which (benefits from) renewed interest due, he believes, to a recent economic surge in Beaver County.  Construction of a $6 billion ethane cracker plant by Royal Dutch Shell has resulted in significant job-growth in a region that has suffered for decades following the closing of multiple steel mills. 

    “It's definitely a resurgent and re-inventive spirit going on throughout the entire (Beaver) Valley,” Mr. Davis said. 

    One day, he hopes to go back home to Charm City (Baltimore). 

    “I have a heart for Baltimore; it's the foundation of my educational training. It's still the place I call home,” he said.

    This article by freelance writer Timothy Cox first appeared in The Beacon newspapers of Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, and is reproduced here with the publisher's permission.