In Memoriam

Martha S. Putney (1916-2008)

Martha Putney, military historian and educator, has died in Washington from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She was 92 years old.

A native of Norristown, Pennsylvania, Putney won a scholarship to Howard University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in 1939 and a master’s degree in history a year later.

Unable to find a teaching position, Putney joined the Women’s Army Corps in 1943. After World War II she used the GI Bill to earn a Ph.D. in European history from the University of Pennsylvania. She then began a long teaching career, first at Bowie State University and later at Howard University. At Bowie State, she was chair of the history and geography department.

Putney was a well-regarded historian. Her books Black Sailors: Afro-American Merchant Seamen and Whalemen Prior to the Civil War (1987), When the Nation Was in Need: Blacks in the Women’s Army Corps During World War II (1992), and Blacks in the United States Army: Portraits Through History (2003) are all highly acclaimed.

A story on the life of Dr. Putney appeared in Tom Brokaw’s bestseller, The Greatest Generation.

Enyi Okereke (1954-2008)

Enyi Okereke, chief of foot and ankle surgery at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center and associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, died from a heart attack while training physicians in his native Nigeria. He was 54 years old.

Dr. Okereke came to the United States as a teenager. He earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Buffalo. He went on to earn a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in pharmacy at Mercer University. He was a graduate of the Howard University medical school.

Claiborne deBorda Pell (1918-2009)

Claiborne Pell, a six-term U.S. senator from Rhode Island, died from Parkinson’s disease on New Year’s Day at his home in Newport. He was 90 years old.

Senator Pell was the author of the 1972 legislation creating Basic Educational Opportunity Grants which were designed to meet tuition costs for low-income students at state-operated colleges and universities. In 1980 the Pell Grant program was renamed in the senator’s honor.

Over the past 35 years millions of young African Americans, who otherwise would not have been able to afford college, have enrolled in higher education with the benefit of Pell Grants.