Marylander of the Year

In 1987, The Sun's editorial board decided to bestow upon the Johns Hopkins University's then-president, Steven Muller, a newly created award: Marylander of the Year. The distinction was meant to honor the person who "contributed the most to Baltimore and Maryland and to the lives of our people," and the man who was in the midst of a rapid expansion of Hopkins' medical and academic empire got the nod as the leading "puller of strings, guide, coach, motivator, spokesman, cheerleader, tambourine-shaker, master of ceremonies and world traveler."

During the next 15 years, the paper honored a wide variety of Marylanders who had added meaningfully to civic and cultural life. This year have decided to revive the tradition.

Here's how you can help: Send us your nominations for the people you think have done the most to shape Maryland for the better in 2012. Whether your pick is someone famous or unheralded, write a brief explanation of why he or she is deserving of the honor. We will be accepting nominations through Friday, Nov. 30. Send them to talkback@baltimoresun.com, and please include "Marylander of the Year" in the subject line. We will mull over your submissions and announce four finalists in early December. We will run short profiles of each, including excerpts from your nomination letters.

We will then open up the contest to a public vote on baltimoresun.com to help us in our deliberations, with an eye toward announcing the Marylander of the Year on Dec. 31. In early 2013, The Sun, in partnership with the Greater Baltimore Committee, will host an event to honor the winner.

Many of those who have been named Marylander of the Year in the past were well into their long and distinguished careers here, but the honor is not meant to be a lifetime achievement award. James W. Rouse, of Columbia and Harborplace fame, got the nod in 1993 for his efforts to revitalize 72 square blocks in the Sandtown-Winchester area of West Baltimore. Kweisi Mfume won the honor in 1995, the year he took over an NAACP struggling for relevance and financial stability.

Nor is the award intended to be limited to those who work the halls of the State House or City Hall. Cal Ripken Jr. won, though curiously enough not in the year he broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games streak. He got it in 1991, when he merely won the American League MVP, Sporting News and Associated Press Player of the Year, and a Gold Glove. Sports Illustrated named him (along with Nolan Ryan) a "living legend." And for good measure, he raised $200,000 that year for an adult literacy charity he and his wife founded.

William H. Keeler won the award in 1994, the year he was elevated by Pope John Paul II to cardinal, and John Waters took the prize the year "Hairspray" opened on Broadway. There have been occasional group honors — Nancy Grasmick, Walter Sondheim and Howard W. "Pete" Rawlings were jointly recognized in 1997 for persuading the legislature to provide more funds to city schools in exchange for greater accountability. The Ravens collectively took the prize the year they won the Super Bowl. The cast and crew of "Homicide" won in 1996.

But this year, as we dust off the award, let's search for the one person who did the most in 2012 to lift our spirits and propel us forward as a state. Much has changed in Maryland since the last award, in 2002, and a whole new generation of leaders in politics, culture, religion, business, entertainment, sports, the arts and academia has sprung up since. To recognize them is to take stock of how our world is changing and to see into Maryland's future.