Alice G. Pinderhughes ’73
By Molly Englund
The 2020 Marguerite Barland ’60 Merit Award winner was honored at the 14th annual Jewell Robinson Dinner.
Helen Lee wanted to go to college. It wasn’t an obvious choice; it was the late 1960s, she was a 35-year-old woman married to a doctor, and the couple had three children, each six years apart in age. But most of her friends had college degrees, and Lee was determined. After her third child, a daughter also named Helen, was born, Lee told her husband she was going to school. Soon, she was a student at Morgan State University, surrounded by classmates only a little older than some of her children were.
“To me, that would be hard,” said Alice G. Pinderhughes ’73. As a young woman, Pinderhughes was best friends with Lee’s daughter Helen, and the story was one Lee often told. It stuck with Pinderhughes. She thought about other would-be older students, people like Lee who wanted to get a degree but who didn’t have her connections and support. How much harder would it even be for those students?
How, Pinderhughes thought, could she help?
It was a natural question for her; Pinderhughes liked to help. She became a lawyer because of Perry Mason, after all, who always cleared his clients’ names on TV. More accurately, Pinderhughes needed to help.
She needed to help because once, she needed help.
Today, Pinderhughes is a powerhouse lawyer specializing in family, corporate, and real estate law, with plenty of awards to her name. She has worked as an examiner master and a mediator for the Circuit Court of Baltimore City, a mediator for the United States Postal Service, a nursing home appeal-board examiner, and an associate professor at the University of Baltimore Law School and Stevenson University.
But once, she was a college student at Goucher, having a rough year. In October 1971, her grandmother, who lived with her family, died. In January 1972, Pinderhughes broke her tailbone ice-skating. That March, her father died. Two weeks later, her mother’s childhood home caught on fire, and just before Pinderhughes went back to college in the fall, a drunk driver hit her and totaled her car. It was a difficult year to endure.
“I was going through so much,” Pinderhughes said. “You get to a point where you feel like you can’t make it. My friends at Goucher got me through that.” They shared a schedule to help her to classes and made sure she didn’t get discouraged. Pinderhughes was touched.
Throughout her early career, other people offered help, too—lawyers, judges, friends, and family—and Pinderhughes never forgot it.
“I wouldn’t be here but for people who have helped me,” she said. “And I’m really clear on that—I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have that kind of help. So how can I not help and do something for other people?”
Pinderhughes answered her own question by starting the Helen Lee Scholarship Fund at Morgan State University. The endowed fund helps older students return to school.
And she keeps answering it, as she mentors young people interested in law, as she volunteers at Christmas, as she fights injustice. Looking back at that woman in 1972, who had gone through so much but still had a lifetime ahead of her, Pinderhughes said, considering each word, “I was just getting started.”