Paul Sarbanes and UMES: A legacy of shared values


The late Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes served his constituents with conviction for four decades, a period spanning five administrations at Maryland’s historically Black land-grant institution just down the road from his hometown.

His introduction to the college in Princess Anne was likely on the hardwood. 

As the story goes, the Wicomico High School basketball star and his teammates, under the tutelage of the late Sam Seidel, would scrimmage the Maryland State Hawks to toughen up the teenage cagers for deep runs at prep hoop titles.

When voters in 1966 sent him first to Annapolis as a state lawmaker, and then to Washington as a congressman and eventually the U.S. Senate, Paul Sarbanes had a clear understanding of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s mission and its role in the state’s higher education landscape.

The UMES community enjoyed a warm, mutually respectful relationship with the Salisbury native that lives on in two important ways.

There is the Paul S. Sarbanes Endowment Fund.  Created in 2008, it provides “need- and merit-based scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students in the environmental science program.”  Christopher Robinson, Preeti Sharma, Eguono Omagamre and Chukwujekwu Oku are the latest UMES students to benefit from the Sarbanes fund over these past two difficult years.

Because of its location between the Atlantic and the Chesapeake, UMES has prided itself on being a good steward of the environment – and an institution where important training and research in science and natural resource management take place. 

Sarbanes long shared this commitment, and others noticed.

The Chesapeake Conservancy, an organization that works to “enhance the pace and quality of conservation” while helping “build parks, trails and public access sites,” named Sen. Sarbanes its “public service champion” in 2016, when it noted he often said “If a state could have a soul, Maryland’s would be the Chesapeake.”

Sarbanes championed efforts to restore the Bay’s health, an objective UMES students and faculty-researchers embrace every day on both sides of the Delmarva Peninsula.

In 2005, UMES established a coastal ecology teaching and research center at Assateague Island in Worcester County.  Overlooking Sinepuxent Bay, the facility is dedicated to the study of inland waterways with a focus on the life its ecosystems support as well as preservation of Maryland's Atlantic coast.

Working first in partnership with the late William P. Hytche, then Hytche’s successor, the late Dolores Spikes, Sarbanes is credited with convincing the U.S. Congress to allocate $1.5 million in federal funding to launch planning for the center,

UMES is proud to say today that the facility is named in Paul Sarbanes’ honor.

It serves as a satellite research hub where students pursuing degrees in marine science work alongside nationally recognized faculty.  Earlier this year, UMES researchers Andrés G. Morales-Núñez and Paulinus Chigbu, working from the Sarbanes Center, were credited with the discovery of a new species of a microscopic crustacean aptly named Carinacuma umesi.

"I am extremely grateful for the recognition and honor bestowed upon me by UMES in naming this center for me,” Sarbanes said at the dedication event. “It is my hope the Paul S. Sarbanes Coastal Ecology Center is another important addition to UMES' already outstanding research and educational offerings."

“We are coming more and more to recognize how important natural science programs are to the state," he said.

Sarbanes delivered those remarks on June 16, 2008.  His words continue to resonate today.

Bill Robinson, a former Salisbury Daily Times reporter, is Public Relations Director at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

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