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Former Charles County commissioner Edith J. Patterson has taken her commitment to education in Maryland one step further.

Patterson, 66, was sworn in as a member of the Maryland Higher Education Committee on Friday morning at the county courthouse in La Plata, a position to which she was appointed by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and sponsored by Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton (D-Charles) for a five-year term.

The duties of the commission include establishing statewide policies for Maryland public and private colleges and universities and for-profit career schools, along with administering financial aid statewide.

Her responsibilities as a board member will include helping plan, supervise and coordinate the state post-secondary education system.

For Patterson to accept the post, there was a catch: She had to retire from her position at the College of Southern Maryland after 37 years there.

The decision was not difficult for her.

“When they called me to ask if I would consider the position, I immediately said yes,” Patterson said. “Because of my work, I recognize the importance of high-quality education. When they told me I’d have to retire from CSM, I thought for a split second. You recognize that you’ve devoted yourself to something for so long and it’s time for a change ... I will always be an educator.”

While at the college, Patterson served as the director of the Educational Talent Search program, which CSM President Brad Gottfried described as an integral part of the college.

“For as long as I’ve been here, Edith has seen to it that the program was a well-oiled machine, and it is,” Gottfried said, adding that the program will continue even in the wake of her retirement.

Gottfried said he was surprised to learn of her retirement, and is “happy but sad.”

“She had mentioned to me a while ago that she was considering this but ... I didn’t think it would be for a while,” Gottfried said. “I’ve seen people who put off retirement for too long and as a result don’t get to enjoy it fully. I hope that through this, she gets to enjoy this important part of her life. We’re pleased she’s been here for so long and ... helped thousands of young people in the community.”

Anthony B. Covington, the state’s attorney for Charles County, was present at Friday’s ceremony and spoke of the state’s gain.

“It’s a great day for Charles County and Maryland,” Covington said. “They’re getting a great asset.”

lrenner@somdnews.com