Skip to navigation Skip to main content

Story Swap

Dean Martha O. Roseman Remembered

By Susan Weissfeld Hammerman, A&S ’83

imagebrowser imageI was in D.C. in July 2011, having lunch with colleagues, when my phone vibrated, notifying me of a missed call. It was my husband, Jan (Jan Hammerman, A&S ’78, SAIS ’81). Even after 25 years of marriage, we typically speak several times a day. I figured it was our usual lunchtime call, and we would catch up with each other at the end of the day.

When I got back from work, I curled up with the phone, looking forward to our chat — news of Jan's day, and of our two daughters. Jan was somber. "Did you get my message?" No, I had not yet played it back. "My mom (Aileen Goldstein Hammerman, Peab ’52) called. Dean Roseman has passed away. I knew you would want to know right away. I'm so sorry, Susan." A new, yet familiar emptiness welled inside of me, reserved for the losses of those most cherished in my life, whose values informed my own and shaped the person I have become.

When I first met Martha Roseman as a JHU freshman in the fall of 1979, she was assistant director of academic advising. It was immediately clear that she deeply cared about all of her students in a way that transcended grades and academic rigor alone. She was more like a family member who always had your best interests at heart. Upon meeting my parents, who were about to drop off their 17-year-old daughter 200 miles from home, she assured them that she was everyone's "mom" away from home. Indeed, each Hopkins student who got to know her learned that not only was her office door always open, but the welcome mat was always out.

Through the years, Martha Roseman loved her Hopkins students and they loved her right back. She became director of academic advising, and ultimately associate dean. Her beloved husband and childhood sweetheart, Saul, had been chairman of the JHU Department of Biology. I can't think of anyone who represented the soul of the Homewood campus as faithfully as Dean Roseman. Years after she had retired, she told me how much she still missed her cherished students and Homewood. When she first reduced her work schedule, she looked forward to spending her Fridays doing what she did so spectacularly — mentoring and counseling students, a routine she maintained for as long as she could.

During my time on the Homewood campus, Dean Roseman and I spoke regularly, and I treasured her advice. I was privileged to do well academically and was accepted into an accelerated J.D. program at Columbia Law School immediately following my junior year at JHU. I never will forget entering Dean Roseman's office in May 1982 for my last time as a JHU student, as I prepared to move back to New York to matriculate at Columbia in the fall. I was looking forward to the next phase of my life, but hated saying goodbye to my mentor. I entered her "living room" (as she referred to the area outside her office) and we sat down on the couch to chat.

She was smiling, and her eyes were positively twinkling. "Susan, I'm not usually in the business of matchmaking, however I just heard from a Hopkins alumnus who also will be entering Columbia Law School this fall. He graduated a few years ago and is from Baltimore. I know him and his family very well. You must promise to get in touch with him when you get to Columbia. You have much in common." I was 20 years old, and was not interested in a match, I assured her. Dean Roseman was completely undeterred. To be polite, I told her I was sure we would meet at some point — after all, there were just 350 of us in the CULS Class of 1985. Dean Roseman's parting exhortation had nothing to do with knocking Columbia's socks off or making Law Review. She was a woman on a mission: "Promise you will get to know each other, you have so much in common!" Jan and I first met at the beginning of our time at Columbia — at the “folders”, the spot where the law school students retrieved their mail. We recognized each other from the Columbia Law School "face book" — a first year (1L) student directory that included photographs and undergraduate institutions. Unlike J.K. Rowling's Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where incoming students were sorted into houses by destiny, temperament and fit, at Columbia Law, 1L students were sorted into classes alphabetically. Since Jan was an "H" and I was a "W" we had no classes together — not even large lecture classes. We smiled that Dean Roseman had so wanted us to meet, however we were both involved in other relationships. We wished each other good luck in law school and parted company.

Not so fast. First, our mutual love of music and need for an outlet away from the books drove us independently into the Columbia Law Revue — the annual spring musical through which overworked law students who previously had considered themselves outgoing and balanced kept themselves sane. Next, without even stopping to think about it, we developed the same friends and started meeting as a group in Johnson Hall for lunch each day. At the Columbia Law Revue cast party, I couldn't help but notice how handsome and funny Jan was. It was a fleeting thought, however; I was not available and neither was he.

imagebrowser imageAt the end of my second summer at Columbia, I returned to school to register for third year. Although first year classes were arranged alphabetically, 2L and 3L registration was not. We were free to register at any time during that third week of August 1984. I selected a convenient date and time, and upon arrival, went to the folders to check my campus mail. Within the same minute, in walked Jan, to register for his third and final year. We caught up on events of the summer. By some strange coincidence, we no longer were in those prior relationships. No longer 1Ls, we independently had selected some of the same classes and Jan suggested we sign up to be seatmates. Studying together led to one-on-one conversations and a chance to get to know one another. We discovered that we were both classical musicians: Jan had brought his violin to Columbia and had played in the school symphony. His mother was a pianist who graduated from Peabody, where I also had studied piano as a Hopkins student. We shared similar politics, outlooks and values. At Hopkins, we had many of the same professors, and Jerry Schnydman, A&S ’67, then director of admissions, had interviewed both of us. Jan had a wonderful sense of humor. We also both loved to dance, play music together, go to the symphony and visit museums. He had lived and worked in Colorado and loved the mountains. We made plans to go skiing. We shared the same spiritual views and background. The more we spoke, the more we spoke. Our discussions began to stretch from after class through lunch and dinner and then nightly, until 3:00 a.m., when one of us finally would realize the time and that there was still class the following day. Dean Roseman was right — emphatically so.

Jan and I became engaged on Mother's Day 1985. Our graduation from Columbia days later was a combined engagement party and celebration of earning our J.D. degrees. We called Dean Roseman together to share our news; I could hear her smiling all the way from Baltimore. "I told you so!" We couldn't wait to see her in person. Since Jan's family lived in Pikesville, we made it a point to visit the Homewood campus on each trip back from Denver, where we lived following our wedding. In time, there were three of us, then four: Our first daughter, Laura, was born in 1992, followed by Tamara in 1999. We never missed a chance to visit Dean Roseman, and our children always specifically requested to see her during our trips back to Baltimore.

Generations of Hopkins students knew Dean Roseman as a mentor, friend, sounding board, advisor and mom away from home. She also will forever occupy a special place in my heart for having introduced me to my husband and best friend. My relationship with Martha Roseman, which began when I was just a 17-year-old girl, spanned a total of 32 years. During that time, she became both a lifetime friend and role model to my children. The lives of each member of my family have been richer for having known her. I will miss her more than I ever can express, but know that her legacy and example will endure for each generation she so generously touched.