Johnnie Foreman has two major responsibilities as director of community and diversity at Gilman School, a private Baltimore-based boys’ preparatory school. One is to make sure that the school attracts a diverse student body and the other is to make sure that the students who attend get the best education they can to prepare them for the future.
“When students leave Gilman, they are academically sound, athletically sound and socially sound,” said Foreman. “I’ve always said that in order for any of our young men in any institution—not just Gilman—to be successful in this world today, one of the things we have to make sure they are aware of is the diversity and various different cultures and ethnicities that are in our world.”
This year, Foreman, 64, a veteran educator, marks 30 years in his post. When Gilman officials hired him to oversee diversity in 1984, it was considered a maverick move. Founded in 1897, Gilman’s tuition for 2013-2014 runs about $25,000. With a student population whose members come from some of the area’s wealthiest families, many were surprised that diversity was such a focus.
Foreman was up to the task.
“We make an attempt to make sure we get as many students of color—specifically African-Americans—into the school [as possible] because there are too many young men out there who just need the opportunity to have an education,” Foreman told the AFRO. “They should have the opportunity to experience what Gilman School has to offer.”
Foreman spent 10 years working in Baltimore public schools before joining the staff at Gilman. As director of community and diversity, Foreman is also responsible for recruiting and hiring teachers of color.
Foreman said he grew up a “poor-boy from Baltimore,” He attended Douglass High School and then went on to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees at Morgan State University.
He once had doubts he would ever attend college, however. He said he was told as a youngster that he was not college material.
“That’s what pushed me, that’s what caused me to fight to get into college and to do what I am doing today,” Foreman said. “I had to work hard just to be able to achieve that college degree.”
Foreman said he is constantly challenging himself to learn and improve, traits that he hopes motivate his students.
“I pray that I make an impact,” he said.
The diversity program has made Gilman School more attractive to minority students, who are now visible in every aspect of school life—from the honor roll to the clubs and organizations to the sports teams.
It is a picture that is much different from the Gilman student body of years ago.
“Throughout the years, the faculty has seen an increase in parents and students—specifically African-American students—looking at Gilman School,” Foreman said. “I think one of those reasons is the [number] of teachers of color we have here.”
Next month, Foreman will receive a diversity and leadership award from the National Association of Independent Schools. Being nominated, he said, was a “humbling experience.”
“You try to make sure you live right, and try to make sure that you do right,” he said. “If you work hard and keep your morals and values, everything will work out for you.”