In Memoriam: Rose Dawson, D.Ed., Former Academic Dean and Vice President of Villa Julie College
It is with much sadness that we share the news of the passing of Rose Dawson, D. Ed., Villa Julie College’s Academic Dean and Vice President from 1965 to 1999. She died peacefully on Thursday, July 14, 2022. The entire Stevenson University community extends heartfelt condolences to Rose’s family as well as to the many friends she made, colleagues she inspired, and students she served throughout her decades-long service to Villa Julie College.
Born in 1927, Helen Rose Dawson was one of five girls born to Lawrence Dawson and Helen (Jenkins) Dawson and was raised at her family’s farm in Rockville, Maryland. According to Rose, she grew up in a vibrant household that welcomed and hosted Native Americans who traveled from Pine Ridge in South Dakota, where her grandmother once taught, to Washington, DC; respected education, history, and friendship; and valued service and uplifting others, something that she believed was a good model for education. Similar to Saint Julie Billiart, founder of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Rose believed that learning best took place in an atmosphere of warmth, respect, and community.
Educated by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in both primary and secondary school, Rose was impressed by their ability to reach out to their students, and it was this experience and her family’s legacy that inspired her to pursue education as her life’s vocation. When she graduated high school in 1945, she entered the convent and became a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, remaining a member of the order until 1980. She wanted to teach, she wanted to help, and “that’s what the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur did,” Rose later explained.
Her first assignment was as a 1st grade teacher in a Diocesan school outside of Washington, DC. Her next experience was teaching 2nd graders at Saint Ursula’s for half a semester in Parkville, Maryland. She was then reassigned to teach middle school and later serve as a principal at Trinity School in Ilchester, Maryland. In 1955, Rose went to Staten Island, New York, to help found Holy Rosary School, where she served as the principal as well.
Dawson earned her master’s degree from Fordham University and her Doctorate in Education from Nova University. From 1960 to 1965, she was a faculty member and department chair at Trinity College in Washington, DC, and it was at Trinity that Rose met her friend, fellow sister, and academic colleague Carolyn Manuszak, who would later be appointed by the Order of de Namur to serve as President of Villa Julie College. In 1965, Carolyn asked Rose to serve as Villa Julie’s Academic Dean, and, together, these two friends and colleagues worked to transform the two-year junior college into a thriving four-year institution, laying the foundation for what is now Stevenson University.
In 1978, Rose was appointed as Vice President in addition to her role as Dean of the College, and over her 34 years at the institution, she guided the development of an expanding curriculum and built relationships with state government, professional associations, and businesses that earned Villa Julie a reputation as “The Name that Opens Doors” for students. When she arrived in 1965, it was a two-year college with fewer than 100 students. At her retirement in 1999, Villa Julie was reaccredited as a four-year college offering associate, baccalaureate, and master’s degree programs to more than 2,000 students.
Rose was appointed by the Governor to serve on the Maryland State Advisory Council for Vocational-Technical Education in 1977-1980 and again in 1982-1984. She was a member of the Maryland Association of Community and Junior Colleges from 1965-1972, and served as Vice President from 1966-1969. Rose served on a number of boards including those of Trinity College, Villa Julie College, and Maryvale High School. In 1991, she joined the Union Memorial Hospital Nursing School Advisory Committee and played an important role in bringing the nursing education program to Villa Julie College.
In a 1980 tribute to Rose from the Board of Trustees celebrating her first 15 years of service, they noted that, “Under her leadership, and with her unremitting toil, this College’s academic stature has grown from relative obscurity to widely acknowledged excellence.” Marking her 25 years of service to the College, she was awarded the President’s Medal, with the citation noting, “In the administration of her duties here, Dean Dawson has earned the respect and affection of the entire Villa Julie faculty and administration.” She played a vital role in the life and growth of the College, and Rose was awarded the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by Villa Julie upon her retirement in 1999. Her legacy at the institution is memorialized in the naming of the Rose Dawson Center on Stevenson’s Greenspring campus and the annual Rose Dawson Excellence in Teaching Awards that recognize outstanding faculty of the University.
Rose guided the development of a curriculum with a strong career focus and a grounding in the liberal arts and sciences; instilled a shared commitment to teaching excellence; and promoted a culture of personalized support for students, something that she experienced in her youth that inspired her lifelong career and became a signature aspect of a Villa Julie, and now, a Stevenson education.
“Rose was a strong, wise, pragmatic, compassionate, and humble leader who brought out the best in people,” said Susan T. Gorman, Ph.D., Stevenson University’s Executive Vice President and Provost. “Her exacting but reasonable expectations, firm but gentle hand, and unwavering commitment to education helped shape the trajectory of the countless lives she touched, my own included. She gave selflessly of her gifts and talents throughout her life, and in so doing Rose made Stevenson University and indeed the world a better place.”
Rose is survived by her sister, Catherine Dawson Crowley and 10 nieces and nephews: Michael and Helen Crowley; Frank, Lawrence, Richard, Edward, and Tim Gallagher; and Steven, Catherine, and Carol Gray. Funeral and burial services will be private. Future plans for a memorial service at Stevenson University will be announced. Rose’s family asks that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Stevenson University in honor of Rose Dawson through the Office of University Advancement, Stevenson University, 1525 Greenspring Valley Road, Stevenson, MD 21153.
Rose Dawson with her longtime academic colleague and friend Carolyn Manuszak, President of Villa Julie College