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Longtime archdiocesan educator Anna Robinson dies at age 91

Anna Robinson, a longtime award-winning pioneer educator in The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, died March 13 from complications of dementia. (CS file photo by Michael Hoyt)

Anna Robinson, a longtime award-winning pioneer educator in The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, died March 13 from complications of dementia. She was 91 years old.

“Teaching is my heart. It is what I’ve wanted to do all my life,” she told the Catholic Standard in a 1995 interview. “It is what I dreamed of being since the sixth grade. I had a good education, so I recognize how important it is.”

As a teacher, Robinson broke new ground for lay persons and for African Americans in The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington.

When she was named assistant principal at St. Margaret of Scotland School in Seat Pleasant, Maryland, in 1966, she became the first lay school administrator in an archdiocesan school. Her 1979 appointment as principal of the school made her the first lay principal at St. Margaret’s and the first African American to hold that post in any archdiocesan school in Maryland.

“She broke barriers with a sense of dignity. She often told us to be who you are and to be strong. She always had a sense of determination and being fair,” said Charles Robinson, Anna’s son. “She was very focused on Jesus, definitely focused on family and focused on the importance of education.”

Robinson taught in public schools for six years prior to joining St. Margaret’s in 1961. In her tenure there, she served as a substitute teacher, sixth grade teacher, science teacher, assistant principal and principal.

She once said her job was “to teach my students self-discipline and prepare them for today’s and tomorrow’s world… (and) to stress Christian values and set an example.”

In 1988, Robinson was honored both on the local and national levels. That year, she was the recipient of the first archdiocesan principal of the year award, and she was recognized as the National Catholic Educational Association’s (NCE) Region 4 distinguished principal.

As the NCEA Region 4 distinguished principal, she was chosen as the best from among all the Catholic school principals in Maryland, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

“Anna was an outstanding Catholic educator who was also recognized by the NCEA for her many accomplishments,” Daniel Curtin, the archdiocese’s former secretary for Catholic education, wrote in an e-mail to the Catholic Standard. “Without a doubt, she was highly respected by many of her colleagues and clergy in the Archdiocese of Washington.”

Over the years, Robinson served as a member of St. Margaret Parish’s finance and education committees, executive secretary of the parish school board and a member of the Home-School Association.

After her retirement from St. Margaret’s in 2001, she continued to volunteer at the school, teaching art classes and assisting with the annual book fair. She stepped back from that in 2003 after the death of her husband, Charles. He died in November of that year, just four months after the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

Robinson’s four children – sons Charles and Ray Anthony and daughters Charlene and Lorene – all attended St. Margaret’s School and graduated from Catholic high schools. Several of her grandchildren also attended St. Margaret’s School, which is now closed.

Robinson’s distinguished career in education led her son Charles to follow in her footsteps. A longtime educator himself, Charles Robinson recently retired from the D.C. Public Schools, and was a former principal of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian School in Washington.

A resident of Southeast Washington, D.C. and a member of Holy Comforter- St. Cyprian Parish, Anna Robinson worked with the parish’s food drive. She formerly served on the board of directors of Bishop McNamara High School, was the first secretary-treasurer of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and volunteered with the Prince George’s County Department of Aging.

Her hobbies included writing poetry and working on jigsaw puzzles.

In1991, Robinson was awarded the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (“For the Church and for the Pontiff”) Award for distinguished service to the Catholic Church.

Robinson was born in Southern Maryland and recalled to the Catholic Standard in her 1995 interview that the Catholic faith was made a central part of her life. While growing up, she went to Mass with her family every week, and recited the rosary every night.

At her retirement, she told the Catholic Standard that in looking back over her life, she realized, “I’ve had a good life because I’ve enjoyed teaching. I have a lot to be thankful for and a lot of reasons to be happy.”

In addition to her four children, Robinson is survived by five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.