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January 12, 2004

Joe Arnold: An Appreciation

Joe Arnold was a vital and enormously important member of the UMBC faculty for some three and a half decades, and as fine and generous a person as I have ever known. He always found the good in people, and he invariably did the right and decent thing in any circumstance. He could instantly make people feel comfortable, because he was so naturally gracious, so genuinely concerned about them, and so utterly unpretentious despite his achievements and stature. However big or small the task, however inconvenient to him it might have been, he could always be counted upon to do whatever he could for students, colleagues, the history department, and the University.

In fact, I came to UMBC in no small part because of Joe. It fell to him, when I interviewed here back in 1973, to take me around what was then a new and ungainly campus of uncertain prospects. I concluded that that an institution with Joe Arnold must be a pretty good place. Happily, I was right about UMBC-but I had only begun to appreciate Joe's strengths and virtues.

As a scholar, Joe was a leading historian of urban and planning history. His first book, The New Deal in the Suburbs, remains the standard account of New Deal community planning, and at his death he was working on what will be his sixth book, a definitive study of Baltimore. He played an active and often leading role with a variety of private and public historical institutions in the area and helped to establish UMBC's good name. As a teacher and mentor, Joe guided and opened new vistas for the students who filled his classes to overflowing. His undergraduate and graduate students alike profited not only from Joe's limitless knowledge but also from his limitless kindness, his devotion to them, and hismanifest love of learning. Joe helped guide the history department and the University by his service in a stunning array of truly significant capacities, including Acting Director of the Library at a critical time.

To all of his duties, as to all of his relationships, Joe brought his humanity, patience, wisdom, sense of responsibility, good humor, and good judgment. He not only earned the respect of his students and colleagues; he earned their affection, and their trust, and their loyalty. For his friends, his death is a crushing blow. All of us who have known Joe Arnold are much the better for it, and UMBC is a far stronger institution for his years here.

Posted by dwinds1 at January 12, 2004 12:00 AM