Seminar room 1106 in the University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s Food Sciences & Technology Center has a new name; university officials dedicated it Thursday to the late John Valentine Strickland.
The informal ceremony was organized as a Founders’ Week event to acknowledge the contributions of a respected poultry science professor who taught and conducted research at UMES in the mid-20th century.
“This recognition is made possible by a generous gift from Dr. Roger Estep, D.V.M., an esteemed university alumnus, 1951, and protégé of Mr. Strickland,” reads the plaque that will hang in the hallway.
It’s not the first time Estep has acknowledged his admiration for Strickland publicly. In 2005, Estep donated $25,000 to endow a scholarship in agriculture he asked be named for Strickland, who was born in Little Rock, Ark.
“I wanted to honor my mentor,” Estep said at the time. “He left an indelible mark upon my consciousness and character.”
Estep has been among his generation’s most loyal alumni, and it’s not the first time he’s stepped up with a gift to support the university.
Another generous donation inspired the university to thank him by naming a Hazel Hall conference room for the School of Agriculture and Natural Sciences after Estep’s wife, Romaine, who died in 2004.
Strickland’s teaching career in Princess Anne spanned nearly three decades and as many name changes.
He joined the Princess Anne College faculty in 1938 before moving on in 1940 to Lincoln University of Missouri.
President John T. Williams, looking to build a top-flight faculty around its traditional land-grant mission, lured Strickland back to Princess Anne in 1948 when the institution became Maryland State College. One of his first students in his second faculty tour was young Roger D. Estep.
Strickland retired shortly after Maryland State College was renamed the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and in the spring of 1973 he was awarded faculty emeritus status. A private campus road on the east side of campus – not far from where he minded and studied poultry flocks – bears his name.
Strickland died in 1998.
Meanwhile, Estep dedicated the better part of his adult life trailblazing in academia.
He earned a master’s degree from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in veterinary medicine from Tuskegee Institute.
Like his mentor, Estep started off his career teaching “poultry husbandry” at Penn State in the late 1950s before moving on to Howard University’s College of Medicine, where he taught physiology and was a research veterinarian.
He eventually moved into administration to serve as Howard’s executive assistant to the vice president for health affairs in 1970 and finally as the executive assistant to the president in 1971 before leaving for a short stint with the National Institutes of Health.
In 1972, Estep returned to Howard, where he served nearly two decades as vice president for development and university relations, spearheading the institution’s first $100 million fund raising campaign.
A long-time Washington, D.C. area resident, after retiring from Howard Estep shifted his energies to helping UMES, accepting an appointment in 2007 to be senior advisor for government relations. He also served on his alma mater’s fundraising advisory committee and assisted the institution in meeting its fundraising goals.
David Balcom, UMES’ senior administrator who coordinates fund-raising and planned giving, praised Estep’s long, generous history of philanthropy in support of his alma mater.