Cumberland Times-News

Mike Burke - Sports

July 5, 2012

Fort Hill scholarship drive brings them home

From the looks of things, it won’t rain on Fort Hill’s parade on Saturday, but it probably wouldn’t hurt if it rained today to possibly cool things off for the Fort Hill 75th Anniversary and Reunion of All Classes that takes place all day tomorrow, beginning at 10 a.m., at Fort Hill High School and Greenway Avenue Stadium to benefit the Fort Hill Scholarship Fund.

I had the good fortune to run into Mike Dicken, class of 1975, at the stadium on Thursday morning as he and I were both getting in some laps before it became too hot, and already there were workers there setting things up for Saturday’s big day. It’s been an amazing thing to see the hundreds of volunteers who have worked tirelessly to make this day, and tonight’s events downtown, possible, with the committee expecting thousands of Fort Hill graduates to take part. By tomorrow morning, the stadium and the school will have been turned into a virtual village, which, in essence, is what Fort Hill has always been to begin with.

Dicken played football and ran track for Fort Hill, having been one of the starting shortbacks on the school’s first Maryland state playoff football team in 1974. Currently Carl Michael Dicken, Ph.D., who grew up on Maryland Avenue playing sports at Rolling Mill, is Headmaster at Veritas Classical Christian School in Richmond, Va., and is the first to say all he’s been able to accomplish in life has been the direct result of the four years he spent as a student at Fort Hill.

Dicken, of course, is far from being alone with these feelings. Mark Griffin, for instance, class of 1973, who played football and basketball at Fort Hill, contributed a five-figure donation to the scholarship fund, which was, as of late June, the largest contribution the foundation had received.

Griffin, who went about 6-foot-5, 200 pounds in the day and was known as “The Mad Stork,” a la Ted Hendricks, was a two-way end for the Sentinels and started on a couple of great basketball teams, including the 1973 team that played in the state championship game. Along with Allegany High School’s Kirt Wilson, Griffin accepted a football scholarship to the University of North Carolina where he was a starting offensive tackle for coach Bill Dooley. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the eighth round of the 1977 NFL draft before signing as a free agent with the Washington Redskins.

Currently the CEO and owner of Blue Eagle Consulting Inc. of Birmingham, Ala., Griffin learned of the Fort Hill Scholarship Fund from classmate Jane (Brown) Pannone and made his donation.

“It just seemed liked the right thing to do,” Griffin told board member Brenda Smith. “I have good memories of Fort Hill, and Cumberland was a great place to grow up. The concept of being in a position to make a difference, to offer the college opportunity to a student who might otherwise not have the financial means to advance their education and then to do so within the Fort Hill community, is a triple play in my mind.”

So many stories such as Dicken’s and Griffin’s will come to light and be on display this weekend as thousands of loyal sons and daughters of Fort Hill High School, from 1937 to 2012, come together for one helluva birthday party and to make good on their pledge of serving their high school well.

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at

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