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UPDATE: St. Mary's City and St. Mary's College remember Ben Bradlee

Ben Bradlee. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons Distribution - Sharle Alike 2.0 Generic

Press Release from St. Mary's College of Maryland:

St. Mary’s College of Maryland mourns the loss of Benjamin C. Bradlee, 93, who died Oct. 21, 2014. Bradlee was a member of the St. Mary’s College of Maryland Board of Trustees from 2003 – 2011 and chaired the Historic St. Mary’s City Commission from 1991 – 2003. Bradlee was executive editor of The Washington Post from 1968 to 1991, becoming well-known for his editorial role in The Post’s uncovering of the Watergate scandal, the story that thrust The Post into national prominence.

As head of the Historic St. Mary’s City Commission and simultaneously its ambassador to the college’s Board of Trustees, Bradlee strengthened the mission of Historic St. Mary’s City and ensured a productive affiliation between it and the college, effectively planning for the two institutions to have separate governance but equal partnership. During his tenure, the active affiliation between the City and the college led, among other things, to a landmark $65 million Maryland Heritage Project. “How incredibly fortunate we were to have had Ben Bradlee serve on our Board,” says Gail Harmon, chair of the college’s Board of Trustees. “He brought a sharp intelligence and disarming wit to our deliberations. His investment in the college and in Historic St. Mary’s City benefitted not only those institutions but the community as a whole.”

He played an important role with the college’s Center for the Study of Democracy, a joint effort between Historic St. Mary’s City and the college, serving on its advisory board from its beginning. “He very much cared about our college and the Center,” says Michael Cain, professor of political science and director of the Center from 2007-2014. “As everyone knows, he was a no-nonsense type of person. Whenever I called him and asked for assistance, he asked me how he could help. He brought both personal skills and national presence to the Center when it was in its infancy – all of us associated with the Center for the Study of Democracy deeply appreciated what he did.” Bradlee established in 2004 an endowed lecture series in journalism. The series brought journalists to campus for public lectures, among them David Broder, Robin Wright, Gwen Ifill, Tom Brokaw, Tony Kornheiser, Richard Cohen, David Ignatius, and Neil Irwin. “Ben’s leadership on the Board and for the Center for the Study of Democracy, and the connections he brought to benefit both, was a tremendous boost in the college’s impact and value to the community,” says President Tuajuanda C. Jordan.

The father of four children, Bradlee was married to journalist and author Sally Quinn. His family maintains residences in Washington, D.C., and in Porto Bello, a historic house across the river from St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

Press Release from Historic St. Mary's City:

The Commission, Foundation, and staff of Historic St. Mary’s City (HSMC) were saddened to learn that our friend and champion, Benjamin C. Bradlee, passed away on Tuesday, October 21.

In 1991, the recently-retired Bradlee  was “shanghaied” by then-Governor William Donald Schaefer  into taking the helm of a newly-reconstituted HSMC Commission, the governing body of the museum on the site of Maryland’s first capital.  Under Ben’s leadership, the bounds and layout of the old city became visible, populated with re-constructed colonial buildings and ghost frames.  Improvements to the 20th -century infrastructure, from parking to signage, provided guests a more satisfying visit.  In the 90s, Ben’s influence and the recovery of three rare lead coffins from the foundation of the 1676 Brick Chapel catapulted the museum into the national news.  “Ben was a great motivator,” HSMC Executive Director Regina Faden, Ph.D. commented, “It may be fair to say there hadn’t been this much activity in the City since the 17th century.”

In 1997, the Maryland General Assembly enacted SB393, which established the Historic St. Mary’s City Commission as an independent agency with in the Office of the Governor.   Ben took this as “a clear signal that we must move forward in a significant way.”  The law formalized the museum’s affiliation with St. Mary’s College of Maryland in an educational partnership to preserve, study, and interpret the National Historic Landmark where the institutions are located and fostered a spirit of collaboration that guides museum endeavors today.  Together, the two institutions developed the Maryland Heritage Project that includes new buildings and interpretive resources.  Ben’s term as Chairman of the Commission extended until 2003; he continued lending his expertise and influence to the museum as chairman emeritus.

“Ben’s legacy is tangible in the re-created City and in the interpretive programs that help visitors understand the state’s illustrious beginnings,” noted Faden.  “His influence is reflected in the strength and mission of this institution.  The museum could count on his good advice and support.”  Ben’s gentle sense of humor, self-depreciating manner, intelligence, and generosity will be missed. He was a man of the highest class who was a true man of the people.   We were lucky to have known him.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

Original report by Editor Dick Myers:

One of journalism most iconic figures and a part-time St. Mary’s County resident Ben Bradlee died Tuesday of what the Washington Post is reporting as natural causes.

Bradlee as editor led the Washington Post coverage of Watergate which earned the paper a Pulitzer Prize. The movie “All the President’s Men” was based on the investigative reporting of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (with the help of the famous Deep Throat). Jason Robarts played Bradlee in the movie.

Bradlee and his wife Sally Quinn lived part-time in Washington, DC and part-time at their Drayden home, Porto Bello. Upon purchasing the property Bradlee began a long love affair with two major institutions in his neighborhood: Historic St. Mary’s City and St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Governor William Donald Schaefer persuaded Bradlee to accept the chairmanship of the Historic St. Mary’s City Commission in 1991. Later he served on the board of Trustees of St. Mary’s College.

This reporter interviewed Bradlee for the old St. Mary’s Beacon newspaper while he and his wife were moving into Porto Bello.

Last year Bradlee received the Medal of Freedom from President Obama in a White House ceremony.

Bradlee was 93 years old. He was reportedly admitted to Hospice care last month due to the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

Leonard Downie Jr., who succeeded Bradlee as The Post’s executive editor in 1991, was quoted in the Post story announcing Bradlee’s passing: “Ben’s influence remained very much alive at The Washington Post long after he retired, distinguishing the newspaper and our newsroom as unique in journalism.”

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