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TU’s bloody history

Towson University has a bloody history—and it’s one we can be proud of. TU began hosting blood drives half a decade before the American Red Cross launched its first nationwide civilian blood campaign. We talked with TU’s Red Cross liaison Betsy Draper ’72, University Archivist Felicity Knox and Association Vice President of Human Resources Phil Ross to uncover the history of campus blood drives. Read on for their insights, including the strange food served at early drives and a new app that tells you exactly where your blood donation goes.

Newspaper article Feb. 1943

We were early adopters.

The American Red Cross began collecting blood for the U.S. military in 1941. Just two years later, the Towerlight published a story on a campus blood drive, reporting that each donor “was served a ham or cheese sandwich and was allowed…a cup of coffee.” The first nationwide civilian blood program wasn’t in place until five years later, in 1948.

Newspaper article April 1951

War led the cause.

It’s thought that TU’s 1943 blood drive was done to support U.S. troops fighting in World War II. There was an upsurge of blood drives on campus again in the early 50s—likely part of the Korean War effort. Articles at the time noted five blood drives from October 1951 to May 1953 and said “whole blood will be flown to Korea or wherever it is needed.”

Newspaper article May 1953

Schools carry the load…

Colleges and high schools provide 25% of the Red Cross’s total U.S. blood inventory. One of the reasons why blood shortages typically occur in the summer is the dip in blood drives when school isn’t in session.

…and TU is one of the biggest contributors.

Among colleges in Maryland, TU is one of the largest blood contributors. A Towerlight article written in 1953 noted that TU “holds the record for total pints of blood donated over the past two years by various schools.” Since 1998, TU students, faculty and staff have donated approximately 16,300 units of blood, helping to save the lives of nearly 50,000 patients. The Red Cross even named TU “college of the year” for donations in the 2005-2006 and 2011-2012 academic years.


 Donations stay local.

Within a large metropolitan are like Baltimore, blood donations are typically used close to where they’re collected. The new Red Cross Blood Donor app lets donors track their donations through processing, arrival and use. The app tells you the hospital where your blood is used, plus tracks your cumulative donations and lets you make future donation appointments. You can download it in the App Store or on Google Play.

Doc giving blood


There are lots of ways to help.

If someone needs blood—whether it’s a chemo patient or a premature baby—there’s nothing that can substitute for it.

You can help by donating at an upcoming blood drive on campus—the next one will be in the University Union’s Potomac Lounge from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, October 26. You can also volunteer at one of the blood drives, or accompany a friend who’s donating to help provide support. Either way helps save a life—and it can be done on your lunch break.


Written by Pamela Gorsuch
APL # 2016-APL-01459

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