EASTON — Dr. George Silver, 94, a tireless educator who pioneered Maryland’s first regional community college in Wye Mills, died following a long illness on Jan. 27, 2021, in Goldsboro, North Carolina.
As Chesapeake’s first president, Silver oversaw the launch and growth of Maryland’s first regional community college. Founded in 1965, Chesapeake serves five Eastern Shore counties.
Chesapeake College President Dr. Clifford Coppersmith lauded 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,” Coppersmith said.
Silver was named president in July 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 the physical building of the campus, Silver had to build Chesapeake’s workforce by recruiting faculty and staff for the new college.
One of the instructors Dr. Silver hired in 1971 was Dr. Ed Baker. The kinesiology professor and coach, who retired from his full-time post in 2014, Baker 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,” Baker said. “He was a charismatic leader who was deeply invested in Chesapeake. No detail was too small for his attention.”
Baker said Silver was known to park in a different lot each day, so that he could see campus from a variety of perspectives. With pad and pen in hand, Silver would note anything that needed attention or improvement on his morning walk to the office. The college maintenance department heard from him daily and knew that issues should be corrected by the end of the workday.
Dr. Maurice Hickey served Chesapeake College in a variety of faculty and administrative roles for 32 years, and served as vice president for academic services before leaving in 2005 to become president of Clinton Community College in Plattsburgh, New York. He remembers Silver as an encouraging mentor.
“I was a young faculty member and coach of two sports, and he was a great supporter of intercollegiate athletics,” Hickey wrote in an email to The Star Democrat. “(Silver) also encouraged the faculty to continue their education. He not only encouraged me to earn my doctorate, but he also a wrote a letter of reference for my admittance into the doctoral program at the University of Maryland.”
“He was a detailed and decisive leader, but he also had a huge heart,” 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.”
Melissa Silver of Richmond, Virginia, recalls the investment of time her father made in supporting campus life and his collegians. She was in elementary and middle school at the time and accompanied her parents “to every basketball game, every event that ever happened, either at the college or away from the college,” she said. “The three of us would traipse around all over the place trying to support the college, and that was just a blast. It was wonderful.”
Dr. Richard Midcap, a former Chesapeake vice president and now president of Garrett College, interviewed 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,” Midcap said.
Even as students began meeting for classes at the newly opened Queen Anne’s County High School, “they were always coming up with contingencies for how to make the college go, even without the infrastructure that they needed to have buildings and places for students to be,” Melissa Silver said.
Silver and his wife Dr. Jane Hartman Silver worked as a team throughout their careers, she said. Both were tireless advocates of higher education.
“He would tackle and embrace the role as Chief Administrator/President and she would work beside him to fulfill his role as well as serving of Director of the Student Counseling Center,” Melissa Silver wrote in his obituary.
Born on Dec. 5, 1926, in Trenton, New Jersey, Silver joined the Army Air Corps at 16, and the military comprised his second, parallel career. He earned degrees at Northwest Missouri State, Rutgers and Temple universities.
He was predeceased by his wife in 2002 and is survived by his son Dr. George R. Silver of Goldsboro; his daughter Melissa; and his three grandchildren, Dr. George R. Silver Jr. and family; Keith L. Silver; and Cara M. Camaioni and family, all of Goldsboro.
Silver served three colleges as president: Chesapeake College, North Greenville University and Ocean County College.
“He went to places where there was a big challenge; he never went to a place where everything was status quo and all he had to do was keep one finger on the steering wheel,” Melissa Silver said.
Silver said her father was also a “soldier at heart” and “a profoundly committed patriot all of his life.” For more than five decades he actively served in the military: first, in the Army Air Corps, followed by the Army National Guard and then the Army Reserve, from which he retired as a colonel.
He found time to serve as a leader in his church and many civic organizations in the capacities of trustee, officer and fundraiser.
Silver said her parents “were going 100 miles an hour all the time, and they complemented each other so well because they had similar goals from a very early age. They both believed in the inherent greatness of getting an education for anyone; they both believed in using their skills and their abilities and any energy they had to improve the life of anyone they encountered.”
Melissa Silver said her father “personified the true meaning of an altruist” and that his “driving desire and his calling to help others improve their lives, basic decency, and ongoing concern for others knew no bounds.”
“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,” 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 scholarship donation in Silver’s name, please visit www.chesapeake.edu/chesapeake-college-foundation/donate-now.
Donations may also be made to First Baptist Church of Goldsboro, 125 S. John St., Goldsboro, NC 27530.