The school of medicine trustees’ boardroom in the Miller Research Building has been named the Mary Elizabeth Garrett Boardroom, paying homage to the woman who made the largest donation to an ambitious $500,000 fundraising campaign that enabled the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine to open in 1893.
Tours of the renamed boardroom were part of a celebration to honor Garrett, daughter of B&O Railroad president and founding Johns Hopkins trustee John Work Garrett. She not only used her wealth to mandate a set of standards that would substantially raise the bar for medical education in this country, but was also a leader who used her position in 19th century society to bring about the changes she envisioned.
The dedication began with a program in Turner Concourse on Jan. 10. More than 300 Johns Hopkins faculty and staff members, and students attended and were reminded of Mary Elizabeth Garrett’s many contributions to Johns Hopkins, which included personally giving more than 90 percent of the $500,000needed to open the school of medicine.
Now hanging on the boardroom wall is a 6-foot by 40-inch reproduction of the original John Singer Sargent portrait of Garrett that hangs in the Welch Library. It was decorated with garland for the event festivities and accompanied by a plaque with a photograph of Garrett. Paul B. Rothman, dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, who hosted the program, said of Garrett, “She didn’t just fund the school, she helped define it. You’ve heard of activist investors—people like Carl Icahn or T. Boone Pickens, who buy up stock in a company and then push for major change. Well, Garrett was what we might call an activist benefactor.”
Along with the other members of the Women’s Fund Committee—a group of five women, four of whom were Johns Hopkins trustees’ daughters—Garrett provided the gift on the condition that women would be accepted into the medical school on “the same terms as men.” She also insisted that the school of medicine be a graduate institution, requiring that students enter with a bachelor’s degree from a reputable college and pursue a four-year course of study followed by exams to obtain a medical degree.
Rothman was the first of several speakers who praised Garrett for being a maverick and born leader. Janice Clements, vice dean for faculty, who has been at the forefront of efforts to advance the role of women at Johns Hopkins, was the program’s master of ceremonies and spoke of Garrett’s eagerness to break through the many boundaries of her era.
“Mary Garrett not only impacted women’s educational opportunities, but was also heavily involved in the women’s suffrage movement,” said Clements. “She hosted the National American Woman Suffrage Association’s 1906 convention in her Mount Vernon home with notable suffragists, like Susan B. Anthony.”
Clements also thanked Catherine DeAngelis, professor of pediatrics emerita, for suggesting to rename the boardroom during her remarks in last year’s Mary Elizabeth Garrett Lecture. The audience was treated to a special appearance by Garrett’s great-greatnephew, Jim Garrett, who spoke about his “Aunt Mary’s” determination to open opportunities for others, after being denied a formal education herself because of her gender.
“Through her efforts at self-education and the training she had received by working at her father’s side,” Garrett said, “she was well-equipped to act on her commitment to use her inheritance for securing equal rights for women in education and beyond.”
Also in attendance was Garrett’s fourtimes grandniece, Anne Garrett. “It’s amazing to think how far we’ve come in 125 years—of the unlimited opportunities that my daughter Bianca and Anne Garrett have today, thanks to individuals like Mary Elizabeth Garrett,” says Johns Hopkins Hospital President Redonda Miller.
This dedication was the first in a series of special events to commemorate the school of medicine’s 125th anniversary year. Events include a scientific symposium and pop-up exhibit during Johns Hopkins University Reunion and Alumni Weekend on June 1 and 2, as well as a celebration with the East Baltimore community.
A special anniversary website, a selfguided interactive tour and the naming of 125 contemporary Hopkins Heroes will provide opportunities to learn about the people—past and present—who helped shape the school of medicine.
Visit the anniversary website at hopkinsmedicine.org/school-of-medicine-125-anniversary/.