Margaret DeMan Armstrong (Courtesy photo)
Margaret DeMan Armstrong, a Baltimore icon known for her groundbreaking contributions to the arts and education, died in her sleep on July 19, at Brookdale Assisted Living in Towson, Maryland. She often mentioned her goal of reaching 100-years-old. In January she celebrated that goal with family and friends at her residence.
Armstrong was born January 30, 1916 in Baltimore to the late Claudia Thomas DeMan and the late Henry Oliver DeMan. She was a devout Catholic throughout her life and a parishioner of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. She studied the piano at an early age and demonstrated a unique talent, a love for playing, and an overall love of music.
She was a Douglass High School graduate and completed her college education at Coppin Normal School. She later earned a master’s degree in History and Philosophy of Education from Loyola College. She began her career as a music education teacher in Baltimore City Schools and was shortly promoted to administrative specialist for the Music Division for the Baltimore City Department of Education. She also served as a program consultant with the Federal Housing and Urban Development Agency and as the Coordinator of Cultural Enrichment with the Department of Education.
Three sons, William Oscar, Roderick, and Carroll Robbins, were born from her marriage to William Oscar Armstrong, Jr., deceased.
Armstrong used her creativity, positions, and influence to change the face of the arts in Maryland and across the country. She created a performing arts curriculum proposal and a cultural arts workshop proposal, both successfully and widely implemented. She also created and implemented a cultural enrichment program that combined the arts and humanities through a series of experiences performed by professional musicians, actors, artists, and dancers.
Her love of the arts, and her continued determination to encourage and support artistic talent in Baltimore City’s youth, resulted in her bringing together a group of business leaders, leaders in the arts, and education representatives, to draft the fundamental proposal for the Baltimore School for the Arts. It opened in 1979 and has graduated many students who are now nationally known for their talents. The annual “Armstrong Honors Recital” highlights her contributions to the school. The “Margaret DeMan Armstrong Prize for Excellence,” established in 2001, provides an award to honor a deserving graduate who demonstrates a commitment to community service and love of the arts.
While Armstrong was the leader for bringing arts to Baltimore City’s Public School children, she also worked as a volunteer with many boards and committees. She created the first International Exchange Program between educators in the Baltimore City Public Schools and educators in Gbarnga, Liberia. She advocated for cultural institutions to be responsive to the needs of African-American children and families who would not be able to afford to attend many of the premiere cultural events in the city.
In 1992, Armstrong was a member of the task force that undertook a feasibility study to determine the possibility of creating a middle school for Baltimore City youths. In 1993, the Saint Ignatius Loyola Academy opened as a tuition-free, private Jesuit school for middle school boys from low-income families.
Armstrong is survived by her sister, Frances Ashby (daughter Cleo), her son, Roderick (wife Gloria), Barbara Blount Armstrong (daughter-in-law), grandsons, Mario (wife Nicole) and Sean, and a cherished great-grandson, Christopher. She is predeceased by her oldest son, William and her youngest son, Carroll. Armstrong is also survived by cousins Ruth and Kim McCalla, as well as other relatives and friends.
Public viewing will be held from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. July 28 at March Family Life Tribute Center, 5616 Old Court Rd., Baltimore, Maryland. The funeral will take place 11 a.m. July 29 at Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5200 N. Charles St., Baltimore, Maryland, with viewing from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in Margaret’s honor can be sent to the Baltimore School for the Arts.
Attn: Development Office
Baltimore School for the Arts Foundation
712 Cathedral Street
Baltimore, MD 21201