Professor Dee Winfield College of Southern Maryland
I had the privilege of speaking with Professor Winfield, aka “Ms. Dee” over lunch this week and she is without a doubt one of the most interesting personalities I have had the honor to interview in my life! There is so much to tell a reader concerning this lady, I know it is going to be difficult to know where to start and when to stop, but I now wished I had video- taped our conversation because she has had a wonderful, robust, well-travelled life full of “jaw dropping” experiences that can make the listener both laugh and cry at the same time.
I was directed to Ms. Dee by a friend of mine, Aaron, who is currently a student in her class at the College of Southern Maryland. For weeks now, he has been telling me about this special woman that has been an inspiration to him due to her wealth of knowledge and honest approach to life and her great ability to “tell it like it is!” And it didn’t take long for me to come to that conclusion as well! I had anticipated a stately lady, both prim and proper, possibly a “grandmotherly” type of woman who would provide me with a standard tale of a lifetime of teaching young people at the high school and college level! Oh my gosh, I was so wrong and knew I was in trouble from the moment we were introduced! She proved to be “street wise and book smart”, yet possess a friendly, outgoing personality and disarming smile!
Ms. Dee arrived with her friend Michelle for a scrumptious lunch at Jerry’s Place, a quiet, popular restaurant well known for its outstanding seafood just south of Prince Frederick. Upon shaking hands, Ms. Dee let me know she was a devout Cowboy fan. The fact that she was wearing a wide brimmed cowboy hat with boots and jacket should have been my first clue, but my thoughts of a short, quick talk with an older, reserved matronly woman were immediately dashed and I just needed to hold on for dear life because I was in for a two hour roller coaster ride in learning of this wonderful lady’s exciting life! Ms. Dee was born in Chicago many years ago (I did not dare ask how many).
We began the discussion with her life as an Air Force veteran and retiree. In the late 70s, she joined the service as a 26 year old recently divorced and mother of one daughter (Angelina). Because the Air Force was not as accommodating to newly enlisted members with children, she had to overcome significant issues when receiving orders to overseas assignments. I soon learned her strength developed during her adult life because of her strong will and honest determination to make something of herself and be able to help others overcome life’s issues when they presented themselves. Her early training and education led to her assignment as an LPN in an OB Ward during her first years in the military. She found this work to be very routine and unexciting and not all that challenging on a regular basis.
Fortunately, she was able to change her occupational code and become involved in “strategic planning” during her next 15 years and was assigned to many varied positions that allowed her to use her talents and education. She earned a couple of Associate degrees and her Bachelor’s degree in varied fields and came to love teaching at the college level. It was interesting to hear of her experiences as a professor instructing superior officers who she worked for by day and instructed by night; to obtain their respect she often reminded them when she was at the podium, she was not “Tech Sergeant Dee”, but “Professor Dee”. Amazingly, as we talked we learned we both became “Chippewas” earning a Master’s degree in Management and Business from Central Michigan University while stationed together at Lajes AFB in the Azores in the early 1980s. This was a small overseas extension program offered to military and their dependents at this tiny remote base in the Atlantic Ocean. What a coincidence!
Ms. Dee continued her studies for many years and has earned several higher degrees and accreditations in many disciplines including all the social studies, psychology and philosophy, business, education and technology. She is adept and comfortable in instructing a varied curriculum that encompasses all these fields. Additionally, she is also a licensed Practicing Mental Health Professional. She admits that she is probably “over educated”, but she derives so much pleasure teaching others and later seeing these students become successful in their own chosen fields. She considers it a “gift” she has been given to share her knowledge with others and to have met all the wonderful people in life that she hopes to have helped.
She takes seriously the role she played in the off-campus site of Sojourner Douglas College of Baltimore where she served as both a recruiter and a professor. This offsite campus had students from all three counties (Charles, Calvert, and St. Mary’s) here in Prince Frederick. In 2003, watching the first graduating class of 14 women, many the first of their family to do so, earn their college degrees was one of the highpoints of her professional career and life.
I asked what memories bring her the greatest joy. She spoke of her daughter, Angelina, whom she lost to a rare form of bone cancer at age 42 despite a global search for a possible blood donor that turned up 1.8 million possible candidates, but none that were an acceptable match. Despite the result, this episode validated her faith in God and of how much we are all one in the same. She then shared with me her personal philosophy that “every day she makes a conscious choice either to choose to be happy or choose to be right”! She says she now always “chooses to be happy” and it so obvious she lives by that belief to the max!
Finally, she wanted me to include in her story this one phrase to further describe her outlook – she is “selectively successfully single, but you can try”!!! Okay Ms. Dee, I did it! I wish I could include more about this strong, wonderful woman, but I have used up this space that I am afforded each week. This lady has got it together, a little Oprah, and Queen Latifah, Halle Berry, Maya Angelou and a touch of Whoopi all rolled into one! She can build her own house, explain the rules of the zoning commission, teach you most anything or help you with your physical or emotional problems as well. She is something! She is loved by her students and helps to make Calvert County a wonderful place to go to school! Now if I could just get her to give up that team with the big blue star…..
Dave Spigler resides in Lusby and has been a resident of Calvert County since 1979. He has been recognized many times for his years of community service. He received the “Calvert You Are Beautiful Award” for 2013 and recognized by the Knights of Columbus as the “Maryland Citizen of the Year” in 2011. He was a member of the HOGETTES, the Washington Redskins “Biggest Fans” for 22 years. If you know of an unsung citizen of Calvert County, please contact Dave at email@example.com.