INTERVIEW: Sen. Thomas "Mac" Middleton on CSM

Community College Shapes Future Path for State Senator

As a student at the community college in 1965, Thomas “Mac” Middleton recalls being a member of CSM’s basketball team: “I was a bench-warmer and I think in my year on the basketball team I played a total of three minutes. But it was interesting traveling with the team and getting to know the players, in particular Dale Cornette and Greg Cockerham. They were just fabulous players and sometimes if we won, they had won the game by themselves.”
LA PLATA, Md. (Aug. 15, 2008)—A grand future can start from humble beginnings. As part its year-long 50th anniversary celebration, the College of Southern Maryland has been interviewing faculty, students, staff and community leaders who have been associated with this “crown jewel” of Maryland’s community college system. This week we interviewed State Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton (D-District 28).

Sen. Middleton, age 63, graduated from CSM (formerly Charles County Junior College and Charles County Community College) in 1966 and entered public service in 1978 when he was appointed to the Charles County’s planning commission and he became chair in 1981. He served as president of the Charles County Board of Commissioners from 1986 to 1994 and was elected as senator in the state’s 28th legislative district in 1995. He currently serves as the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and was recently awarded the Maryland ARC 2008 Legislative Leadership Award for his outstanding leadership on The Developmentally Disabled Administration Community Programs COLA.

Middleton lives in Waldorf with his wife Joan, and continues to run a successful farm. He is the father of three children and a self-described “doting grandparent.”

On accomplishments and starting out:

“[As a Senator] I have had quite a few accomplishments in my life but one of my finest accomplishments is graduating from what was then the Charles County Community College (now CSM). [I come] from a large family. My parents had 15 children and I was right in the middle-seven boys and eight girls-and we struggled financially. My parents could not afford to send me to a four-year institution. I had been accepted at the University of Maryland but could not afford the cost-which was not very great at that time... So I chose the Charles County Community College …and I was very pleased.”

“I had a very small class. I think there were 33 of us that graduated in 1966 and that included the folks that were in the program at Indian Head. So it was a very, very small class, and because it was a small class, you got individual attention so I have very, very fond memories of some of my professors like President Sine, Dr. Fauth, Miss Amoss and Professor Johnson who taught us government.”

“Because it was small, you knew everybody on campus and there are some very meaningful and lasting friendships that developed out of that experience for me.”

How CSM shaped a future senator:

“I’m a country boy. [Before attending CCCC] I never had an opportunity to go to the theater and we went to the Shakespeare Theater. I remember being on the basketball team; I was a bench-warmer and I think in my year on the basketball team I played a total of three minutes. But it was interesting traveling with the team and getting to know the players, in particular Dale Cornette and Greg Cockerham. They were just fabulous players and sometimes if we won, they had won the game by themselves.”

“In my line of business, I have to work with my mouth. I have a lot of public speaking engagements that go with the state senate job and [Professor and future CSM President] John Sine made a wonderful transition with me. On my first speech he gave me an ‘F’ but when I finished up the course I managed to get an ‘A,’ so that skill set has helped carry me through my political career.”

On the quality of a CSM education:

“When you’re graduating from high school and want to pursue higher education, you may not think immediately of the College of Southern Maryland… [The idea of getting away from home] is very attractive to a lot of young people. I don’t think a lot of them realize that dollar-for-dollar they can get a much better value taking two years at the College of Southern Maryland and then transferring to a four-year institution.”

“We have spent a lot of time at the state level working with our four-year institutions to make sure that the credits [students] take will transfer. And the folks here at the college work very closely with the students to make sure that they know where they want to transfer to and what they want to pursue so that the courses that they take are meaningful. When I transferred from the community college to Mount St. Mary’s every one of my credits transferred.”

“The community college system has a lot of advocates in Annapolis because we know colleges, like CSM, provide a quality and affordable program. Two of my three children attended. My oldest daughter graduated from the CSM and then transferred to St. Mary’s College and my son, Brett, attended Salisbury State….prior to that he took a semester of courses here at the College of Southern Maryland. The college really helped mature him and get him ready for when he did go to Salisbury State.”

CSM and community:

“The college has always been quick to respond to the needs of the community. When I was a county commissioner, we recognized that there was a dire need for more nurses and that’s when CSM built the health technology building in order to get a viable and strong nursing program here at the college, and it’s one of the strongest in the state. Its biggest limitation right now for graduating more nurses is space and faculty.”

“The thing I appreciate about CSM the most is that no business is left behind. Any business that comes to the college and asks can get assistance putting together a training program.”

“The college spends a lot of time in the community. I mean if you go to a chamber event, if you go to a fair or any event that’s out there you see representatives from the College of Southern Maryland - and not just the administration but the Board of Trustees and staff members as well. They are the pillars of the Southern Maryland community and spend a lot of time making sure that the expertise that the college has is shared.”

CSM’s future and dreams:

“It is interesting to think about the future. Back in the late ‘90s we had a business consortium that looked at how do businesses in Maryland fit into the global economy. They made a presentation to the Budget and Taxation Committee I served on and made a number of suggestions. The top two suggestions were number one promote your diversity, and secondly invest in higher education because it is the first line of defense for developing growth opportunities. If times were a little bit different, where we didn’t have the structural deficit, it would be nice if we could provide free tuition to students of the state to community colleges.”

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