HAMPTON, Va. (Nov. 12, 2019) — The Hampton University family is mourning the loss of alumna Dr. Mary T. Christian, class of 1955, who passed away on Monday, November 11, 2019 at the age of 95. Dr. Christian was one of Hampton University’s most notable and influential alumna who positively impacted the entire campus and the larger community through her career in public service.
"Dr. Christian has always been an outstanding lady, colleague, academician, administrator, leader, alumna, legislator and friend. She was loyal and supportive of Hampton University, her alma mater, up until the very end," said Hampton University President, Dr. William R. Harvey. "I will personally miss this kind-hearted, effective and productive lady."
An educator and politician, Dr. Mary Taylor Christian was born on August 9, 1924 in Hampton, Va. After graduating from Phenix High School in 1941, where she was a member of the National Honor Society, basketball, drama and debate teams, Dr. Christian began working in the laundry department at Hampton University. It was during this time she began taking typing courses and eventually landed a secretarial job at the university.
Dr. Christian was encouraged by her mentor to further her studies and she went on to earn her Bachelor of Science degree in education in 1955. From 1955 until 1960, Dr. Christian taught in the Hampton City School system. Dr. Christian attended Columbia University during summer breaks, where she earned her Master’s degree in Speech and Drama in 1960. In 1968, she earned her PhD from Michigan State University, while working as a professor at her alma mater of Hampton University. Dr. Christian’s first major step into the political arena came in 1968 when she helped organize a voter registration drive at HU which resulted in more than a thousand people registering to vote.
In 1980, Dr. Christian was named the Dean of the Hampton University School of Education. She was the first African American to serve on the Hampton City School Board. Dr. Christian worked as a campaign manager for several political candidates before deciding to run herself in 1985. In 1986, Dr. Christian was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates and became the first African American since reconstruction to represent the state's 92nd district, the City of Hampton.
She served nine consecutive terms in the Virginia General Assembly where she championed legislation on education, healthcare and prescription drugs. Dr. Christian was among three African Americans appointed to the House Appropriations Committee. She also served on the Education and Rules Committees. Dr. Christian served in the General Assembly from 1986 to 2004.
Dr. Christian, who was known by her students on campus as "Dr. C," was professor emeritus at Hampton University. She received numerous awards for her community and humanitarian service. In 2014, a play based on Christian's life was performed on campus as part of her birthday celebration, titled "My Life Did the Singing." All proceeds from the celebration benefited the scholarship fund established at HU in her name.
On January 28, 2018, Dr. Christian was conferred with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by Dr. William R. Harvey at the 125th Founder’s Day Celebration.
Dr. Christian’s family said details for her funeral services will be released shortly.