Former CSM president dies at 85
Sine credited with start of La Plata campus, expansion to Calvert, St. Mary’s counties
John Sine, the College of Southern Maryland’s second president, died at his Swan Point home on July 6. He was 85.
Born in Washington, D.C., Sine moved to Charles County at age 14, graduating from Lackey High School, at the time in Indian Head, in 1949.
He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1951 to 1954, and afterward, attended
the University of Maryland College Park, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts in English, and New York University, where he obtained a Masters of Arts in Dramatic Literature.
He later obtained his doctorate in Higher Education Administration from Catholic University of America in 1972.
He married his high school sweetheart Joan in 1959. The two had lost touch when John Sine joined the military, but reconnected after Joan’s first husband,
a U.S. Air Force pilot, was killed in a jet crash.
Joan Sine had two children from her first marriage, and she and John went on to have four more children together. Twelve grandchildren and two great-grandchildren followed.
“He and Joan were just an ideal couple,” said State Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton (D-Charles), a former student and longtime friend. “They supported each other in ever ything they did.”
Sine began teaching English and philosophy at the newly established Charles County Community College, in 1961.
“John’s outstanding quality was to inspire students to learn and to
push themselves to do a better job,” Middleton said.
He became dean of the college in 1965 and served in that position for the next 17 years. In that role, Middleton said Sine worked closely with the college’s first president, Julian Carsey.
“He was an excellent leader, and he had a clear vision that he shared with his first president, Dr. Carsey, of how the college should expand to serve all Southern Maryland,” Middleton said. “They were a team.”
CSM Professor Rich Siciliano started teaching at the college in 1968. He said that at the time, there weren’t enough traditional college students to keep the
college financially stable, and so Sine looked for nontraditional programs that promoted workforce development.
“He believed that if we could get the program, the students would come,” Siciliano said. “He was an expert at seeing what was needed and figuring out a way of providing it.”
In 1982, Sine became the college’s second president.
“As president, Dr. Sine had a vision for what the college could be and had the skill and tenacity needed to turn that vision into the reality that is the College of Southern Maryland. John helped shepherd the college from its infancy in the 1960’s to
the vibrant, multicampus institution that it is today,” Bill Comey, CSM’s vice president of student and instructional support services, said in an email. Comey worked with Sine from 1985 until Sine’s retirement in 1998.
Under Sine, CSM expanded its presence into Calvert and St. Mary’s counties. Sine also oversaw the building of the La Plata campus’s Learning Resources Center, Fine Arts Center, Health Technology Building and Center for Business and Industry. In 2012, the conference room in the BI building was named the “Dr.
John M. Sine Conference Room” in his honor.
Former Board of Trustees member Mike Besche served as vice chairman from 1993 to 1994 and as chairman from 1994 to 1996.
“As a trustee at the college I watched the hard work required for the transition of becoming a regional college under John’s leadership. He was instrumental,” Besche said in an email.
Sine also served in a number of leadership positions outside the college, including the Charles County Economic Development
Commission Board of Directors, Charles County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and many others, as well as chairing the Maryland Council of Community College Presidents and the Governor’s U.S. 301 South Corridor Transportation Task Force.
“Growing up and then living in the community, it is a very special role that you have when you become a leader in that community,” said his daughter, Tara Landis.
Sine served over 16 years as president of CSM, retiring in 1999.
“He recognized talent, and how to develop talent. He spent years nurturing talent and bringing in talent,” Middleton said. “When
Dr. Elaine Ryan took over as president, the transition was absolutely seamless, and that’s what a good leader does.”
Sine retired to Swan Point and pursued his passions for fishing, golfing and reading, Landis said.
In addition, John Sine published a trio of novels, “Cuckold Creek” (2008), “Tobacco Styx Bridge” (2010) and “Trinity Island” (2011) set in a fictional version of Charles County.
Landis said that when he retired, her father found time to pursue his interest in writing.
“It was very fun for him, but it was also one of his most challenging undertakings,” Landis said.
Landis said her father’s educational
philosophy was to make education open and accessible to all.
“He use to say it didn’t matter what you go to school for, just go to school and the opportunities will come to you,” Landis said. “He was just very dedicated to bringing educational opportunities to the people of Southern Maryland.”
Middleton said Sine worked hard to make CSM the multicampus premier community college it is today.
“People just take it for granted that all of this just happened,” Middleton said. “It took years to make all this happen, and John was the driving force behind much of it.”
Comey said Sine had a sharp
wit and a keen mind, and was always looking for ways to move the college for ward.
“It is hard to look around the college and not see a facility, a program or a service that has its roots in his work,” Comey said. “Dr. Sine’s legacy is seen everywhere at CSM.”
Visitation will be held today (Wednesday) from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Arehart-Echols Funeral Home, 211 St. Mary’s Avenue, La Plata. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at Sacred Heart Church, 201 St. Mary’s Ave., in La Plata, with a graveside service to follow at 11:30 a.m. at St. Ignatius Church, 8855 Chapel Point Road, Port Tobacco.
College of Southern Maryland 1998 file photo of John Sine, second president of CSM, before his retirement that year.