CSM’s Brick Ceremony Recognizes College’s and Community’s ‘True Champions’

Seven individuals with special connections to the College of Southern Maryland and the St. Mary’s County community were recognized at an annual Brick Recognition Ceremony at CSM’s Leonardtown Campus.

The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) Foundation recognized seven individuals who have special connections to the college and the St. Mary’s County community at an annual Brick Recognition Ceremony at CSM’s Leonardtown Campus on April 23.

Bricks have been placed in front of the campus’ Wellness and Aquatics Center in memory of CSM facilities employees Sherman Clevenger and Thomas V. Cox, Leonardtown entrepreneurs Dick Curry and Johnny Joseph, and county educator and CSM Foundation Director Emeritus Rhokey Millham, and another brick has been placed in honor of CSM administrator Dr. Tracy and Lori Jennings-Harris, director of the county’s Department of Aging and Human Services.

Bricks are purchased through the CSM Foundation by family members and friends and the proceeds go toward the foundation’s general scholarship fund to assist CSM students.

“The CSM Brick Program provides both a way to memorialize and pay tribute to loved ones and members of the community who are our true champions,” said CSM President Dr. Maureen Murphy in her address.

“It allows us to remember those no longer with us … People who made an impact,” said CSM Foundation Chair Nancy Hempstead. “And participants are supporting our community and the youth in our community at the same time.”

Family, friends and former co-workers of those being recognized attended the afternoon ceremony and then gathered in groups outside of the Wellness and Aquatics Center for photos and to swap memories around the newly engraved bricks.

The sons of longtime St. Mary’s County Public School employee Rhokey Millham participated in the event. “It choked me up, seeing her name on the brick,” said Eric Millham, one of her sons. “She was a believer in this place … a believer of lifelong learning.”

The CSM Foundation donated the brick to honor Rhokey Millham, who served on the CSM Foundation Board of Directors from 2002-2012. She chaired the Board Development Committee, the Annual Fund/Special Events Committee and numerous fundraising committees while serving on the board. She was posthumously awarded CSM Foundation Director emerita status in 2018. Her professional career with the public school system mirrored this commitment to education and included positions as early elementary teacher, Title I resource teacher, principal at two elementary schools and assistant principal at a middle school, director of library science and director of instruction.

“It’s nice to see her star on the walk of fame out there,” Keith Millham said. “I think it meant a lot to her to be on the board here and it means a lot to us to see this recognition.”

The CSM Facilities Department donated two bricks to recognize the contributions of Clevenger and Cox, two former Leonardtown Campus employees. Clevenger was in charge of buildings and grounds maintenance at the current campus and, even at earlier campuses with the Community College at St. Mary’s County. He is remembered as a dedicated employee who enforced high standards and who was instrumental in transitioning the facilities’ functions under the regional college umbrella.

“He was a very nice guy [who] did what anybody ask him to do,” said CSM Building and Grounds Team Leader Andrea Chisley, a former co-worker. “[He was] very particular about how he wanted things done in his department.”

Cox was the facilities supervisor at the Leonardtown Campus, where he was known for instilling a spirit of cooperation and camaraderie among his staff as well as his great pride in the quality of his staff’s work at the campus.

“He was straightforward, honest and a dependable worker,” said CSM Facilities Operations and Maintenance Assistant Director Don Posey, Cox’s former supervisor. “He had a true compassion for the people working in his department and an earnest desire to make the college better. He implemented plans and secured funds for the Maintenance Building — a project that was desperately needed …  The brick that bears his name is but a small tribute to an employee who was so dedicated to the Leonardtown Campus.”

The families of Dick Curry and Johnny Joseph pose after dedicating memorial bricks to the two well-known Leonardtown entrepreneurs.

Curry and Joseph, two former, well-known Leonardtown entrepreneurs, were also recognized for their impact on the community with bricks engraved with each of their names as well as their business, the Leonardtown Supermarket.

A brick in memory of Curry was donated by Marsha Anderson, Brenda Curry and Rita Eversberg.

“I think it’s all about tradition and carrying on the family name,” said Brenda Curry, Dick Curry’s daughter-in-law. “To me, that’s important.”

Originally from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Dick and his wife, Cecilia (nee Joseph) Curry, and their two young children, Peter and Marsha, moved to Leonardtown in 1952, where, along with Joseph, Dick Curry’s brother-in-law, they acquired and operated the Leonardtown Supermarket. The partnership created a local business known for its outstanding meat market and for being a place where friends liked to gather for a cup of coffee, where Redskin football pools were created and where one could get the store’s famous eggnog during Christmas.

The family’s commitment to the community extended far beyond the walls of its store. Dick Curry was known for his loyalty and dedication at St. Aloysius Church, the Loyola Retreat League, the Knights of Columbus and the Lions Club. He is remembered for his loyalty and hard work, for his kind, generous and jolly personality, and as someone who always had a good joke and treated everyone as his best friend.

Phyllis Joseph, Johnny Joseph’s wife, who donated a brick in memory of her husband, said she liked the idea of a memorial to her husband and the store being placed at the college since the campus is in Leonardtown. “That store was his life,” she said. “I feel like they contributed to Leonardtown. The business meant so much to them.”

The families sold the Leonardtown Supermarket in 1985 and Johnny Joseph retired to his waterfront home in Hollywood, where he spent the time woodworking, crabbing and “picking many pounds of crab meat,” according to his family. He was the happiest, they said, spending time with his wife and their children, Mike, Joe, Johnny, Beth and Margie and their spouses, as well as eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

The entrepreneurial spirit of the family lives on in St. Mary’s where at least one Leonardtown Supermarket descendant. Dick Curry’s granddaughter, Beverly Newman, is co-owner of Bella Salon and Spa in California. Newman said she grew up hearing stories about her grandfather’s approach to business. “He was the best butcher ever and just good to everybody,” she said after a multi-family photo was taken next to Curry’s memorial brick.

While most of the bricks recognized at the April 23 event were in memoriam, one brick was donated by a couple still actively contributing to the college and community, Dr. Tracy Harris and Lori Jennings-Harris.

CSM’s Vice President of Student Equity and Success Dr. Tracy Harris with wife St. Mary’s County Department of Aging and Human Services Director Lori Jennings-Harris.

The couple has been in St. Mary’s County since 2006 and have both worked toward helping residents enter and succeed in college and through life. Lori Jennings-Harris is the director at St. Mary’s County Department of Aging and Human Services. Dr. Tracy Harris is CSM’s vice president of the Student Equity and Success Division and is responsible for recruitment, admissions, registration, financial assistance, advising and counseling, special population services, student life and athletics at the college.

“The opportunity to support the CSM Foundation by honoring the Leonardtown Campus with a brick dedication was an excellent platform for my wife and me to share our love and commitment to CSM, Leonardtown and its students,” Dr. Tracy Harris said.

The CSM Brick Program is designed to be a lasting celebration of those who have a special connection to CSM and the Southern Maryland community. As a tribute to a family member, a friend or to represent a special occasion, a brick is inscribed and placed among other honorary bricks at locations available on the La Plata, Leonardtown and Prince Frederick campuses. Bricks are available for $200 each, with the funds providing financial support to the college and its mission.

For more information, contact the CSM Development Department at 301-934-7599 or visit http://foundation.csmd.edu.

To view photos of the April 23 event, visit https://csmphoto.zenfolio.com/19maybrickleon.