Continuing Research

Charlestine R. Fairley, Ph.D.

From 1993 to 2015, Charlestine Romelle Dawson Hickson Fairley, Ph.D. was the first African American female to lead an institution of higher education in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Fairley served as the full-time dean and director of Sojourner-Douglass College, Annapolis Campus.

Charlestine R. Fairley, Ph.D.

Charlestine R. Fairley, Ph.D.

The Annapolis location of Sojourner-Douglass College was part of a five-campus college system, with Annapolis being the largest site. Fairley created the campus from the trunk of her car, developed and oversaw the construction of a new building for the school, and increased the enrollment to more than 200 full-time students annually. Fairley describes herself as an academic administrator and social activist.

Fairley was born in Greenville, Mississippi, to Kemp and Ida Harris Dawson. She was educated in Gulfport, Mississippi, and briefly attended Tougaloo College in Tougaloo, Mississippi before transferring to Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She completed her B.A. degree in sociology at Delaware State College in 1963, after her first marriage and the birth of her three children. Later she continued her education, earning her M.Ed. degree in counseling from South Carolina State College and her Ph.D. degree in education from the University of South Carolina in 1990.

Prior to her leadership at Sojourner-Douglass College, Fairley worked in a number of areas and locations, primarily in the social and human services fields. Her work included being a caseworker in New Jersey, a special services counselor, coordinator, and later director of the Upward Bound and Special Services program at Claflin University in South Carolina, and substance abuse prevention at the U.S. Department of Human Services. In her adopted state of Maryland, she directed Prevention Services for the Anne Arundel County Department of Health and coordinated the Anne Arundel County Executive’s Criminal Justice Drug Intervention Program.

She married Richard L. Fairley in 1989. Two years after marriage to Richard, she and her husband moved to Annapolis, Maryland, where she worked concurrently as a trainer for Maryland’s Office of Education and Training for Addiction Services and as an adjunct professor at Nova University and Bowie State University’s College of Business, as well as part-time coordinator of the Annapolis campus of Sojourner-Douglass College. Subsequently, she expanded her initial work with the Sojourner-Douglass College System to lead and fully develop this institution. Always working on the next venture, in 2018 Fairley became the Chief Executive Officer for the Anne Arundel Community Action Agency. Fairley is a life member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, the National Council of Negro Women, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the American Association of University Women. She is also a member of The Links, Inc., Annapolis Chapter, the 21st Century Club of Annapolis, and Asbury United Methodist Church of Annapolis.

Audio: Charlestine R. Fairley, Ph.D.

Continuing Research Archives

Local African American Female Pioneers, Volume I Archives

Local African American Female Pioneers, Volume II Archives

Local African American Female Pioneers, Volume III Archives

Local African American Female Pioneers, Volume IV Archives