Allyce Cathryn Johnson
From 1971-1978, Allyce Cathryn Johnson became the first African American female to become a member of the Anne Arundel Community College Board of Trustees. The College, with its main campus located in Arnold Maryland, dedicated a classroom building to Ms. Johnson in 1982 at the school’s 20th-anniversary celebration.
Allyce Cathryn was born in 1913 in Texas to Samuel and Lena Watson. By the time she was seven years old, she was living in Kansas with four sisters, one brother, and a cousin. Her father was a minister, and her mother was a homemaker and educator. Cathryn was one of the younger children in her family. When she was in her twenties, her doctors told her she should not expect to live more than six years. She proved them wrong – she died at the age of 83 in 1997.
Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree at Tennessee State University and a master’s degree at Columbia University. She began her teaching career in Greenville, South Carolina. She also taught in Bangkok, Thailand, was an instructor of elementary education at Atlanta University and worked as a principal in Fulton County, Georgia for twenty years. She accepted her first position as an educator in Anne Arundel County in 1964 as an elementary school teacher at the newly opened Tyler Heights Elementary School. In 1969 she became the principal of Annapolis Elementary School. At her retirement from the Anne Arundel County Public School system, Mrs. Johnson was the principal at Central Elementary School. By this time she was using a motorized wheelchair to move about the building. She was suffering from crippling arthritis. The children bonded with her immediately. At Central, she administered a special education program for children who had physical disabilities.
Johnson was instrumental in the original plan to develop a community college for the County. She served on the Board of Trustees at Anne Arundel Community College during its early years from 1971 to 1978. She was elected vice-chair in 1974, serving in that position until 1977 when she was elected chair for her final year on the board. Johnson played a major role in the College’s affirmative action policies and made it a priority that the campus facilities were accessible to people with disabilities. She was also active in the national organization of the Association of Community College Trustees.
During her lifetime, Johnson was an active member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. While living in the Atlanta area she was the director of the sorority’s South Atlantic region for five years. The region continues to present an award named after Johnson. She was also president of the Kappa Omega chapter in Atlanta in the early 1950s.
A widow at the time of her death on March 15, 1997, Johnson was married to the late Raf O. Johnson, former chief of Education for Africa-Europe for the Agency for International Development.