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From Homewood to the Capital

Nathan Scholarship Creates Opportunities for Baltimore Students
Posted November 7, 2013
Irv Nathan, A&S '64, and Judith Walter 
IMAGE: Will Kirk, Irv Nathan, A&S '64, and Judith Walter IMAGE: Will Kirk,

Irvin B.  Nathan, A&S ’64, knows the benefits of a world-class college education, as well as the financial hardships that could prevent deserving students from getting that education. He has experienced both firsthand.  Fortunately for Nathan, although his family lacked the resources to send him to college, he received scholarships that—combined with student loans—enabled him to graduate from Johns Hopkins University. 

       Nearly half a century later, Nathan and his wife, Judith Walter, are providing similar financial assistance to deserving city public school students by establishing the Sol and Irene Nathan Scholarship through the Baltimore Scholars Program. The program, which offers full-tuition scholarships for Baltimore City public high school students who are accepted to Johns Hopkins University, was designed to enable some of the city’s finest students to pursue higher education in their hometown.

       “I view it as putting up a ladder and giving a helping hand to people who are growing up in tough circumstances,” says Nathan.   Each of these students has had to overcome obstacles in order to continue their education—just as Nathan did.

        His own path from a child of a modest 1950s Baltimore City neighborhood to Attorney General of the nation’s capital was not easy.  When Nathan and his sister Marilyn were growing up, both of his parents needed to work full time in order to support the family—a less common situation in that era than it is today.  His father was a procurement officer for the city of Baltimore and his mother worked for a state social service agency.   After completing high school at Baltimore City College, Nathan wanted to continue his education, but knew that it would be a financial strain for his family to send him to college.  “I was thrilled to get into Hopkins and to get a scholarship,” he said.  Nathan supplemented his two scholarships—one from Hopkins and one from a community charitable organization—by working as a sports reporter for The Evening Sun.  He studied hard and despite not being able to live on campus, became very involved in campus life.  Nathan was co-editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, a play-by-play sportscaster for the football and lacrosse teams, and had a call-in sports show on WJHU, the campus radio station. 

       He immersed himself in learning both inside and outside of the classroom, and is gratified that today’s Baltimore Scholars have the opportunity to do the same.  In addition to the support of full-tuition scholarships, the Scholars benefit from an array of leadership development opportunities and enrichment programs that maximize the student experience—one of the major themes of Rising to the Challenge: The Campaign for Johns Hopkins.

       With the support from the program, Nathan expects that these Scholars will be able to leave Hopkins feeling as well educated and confident as he did when he graduated.   After Hopkins, Nathan attended Columbia Law School and then spent the majority of his career—more than thirty years—as a senior litigating partner for the D.C. law firm Arnold & Porter.  In 2007 Nathan became General Counsel for the United States House of Representatives and in 2011 was appointed Attorney General for the District of Columbia.

            Although Nathan calls this the “final stage” of his career, his position is particularly demanding due in part to the size and breadth of the office, which is comprised of 700 people, including 350 lawyers.  The Office of the Attorney General handles all of the litigation and preserves the finances of the district, deals with violent crimes committed by juveniles, protects abused and neglected children, prosecutes certain adult misdemeanors, and more.  “It’s a tough job, but I am honored to be able to do it,” Nathan says, “And obviously, I owe a lot to my education at Hopkins.”

       The Sol and Irene Nathan Scholarship will serve as a lasting tribute to Nathan’s parents while allowing people who grew up in similarly challenging circumstances to get a Hopkins education. Nathan hopes that as the Baltimore Scholars complete their studies, they will turn their talents to helping others in the city.  “Education is one of the best ways we have to lift people up and improve a society,” Nathan says.  “Baltimore is certainly a city that needs a lot of support and the scholarship program is one way that Hopkins can help.  We are glad to be able to do our small part.”