A Tribute for America’s First Professionally Trained Black Doctor

James McCune Smith was born in New York City in 1813. His mother was black and his father was white. He aspired to be a physician but, because of his race, he was denied the opportunity to pursue medical education. He traveled to Scotland and earned a medical degree at the University of Glasgow. Smith returned to the United States and opened a successful medical practice in lower Manhattan.

Smith had three children who lived to adulthood. In an era when there were few opportunities for African Americans, Smith’s light-skinned children passed for white. Smith died in 1865 and was buried in an unmarked grave in the Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn.

Greta Blau of New Haven, Connecticut, who had studied black history at Hunter College, found Smith’s name in the family tree in her grandmother’s Bible. She conducted extensive genealogical research and discovered a large number of Smith descendants, many of whom had not previously realized they had a black ancestor. Recently, a large group of Smith descendants gathered to place a tombstone at his gravesite.


Plan Aimed to Increase Racial Diversity at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Fails to Gain Approval in the House of Representatives

Before they left to campaign for reelection, Democratic members of the House of Representatives attempted to pass a provision that aimed to increase racial diversity in the student body at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (CGA) in New London, Connecticut. At the present time, admission to the CGA is done on an academic merit basis. But this year only 15 of the 290 incoming students are black.

Legislators wanted to change the admission procedures so that each congressional representative could nominate candidates for admission. This is the procedure used at West Point, the Naval Academy, and the U.S. Air Force Academy. However, in order to pass legislation authorizing the funding of the academy before Congress adjourned, the controversial provisions that would have changed admission procedures were dropped.


New Scholarship Program for Students at HBCUs Majoring in Science or Agricultural Disciplines

The Monsanto Fund, the philanthropic arm of the large agribusiness company, has established a new scholarship program with the United Negro College Fund. Each year 10 students attending a historically black land-grant institution will receive a $10,000 scholarship. Eligible students are juniors and seniors who are majoring in science or agricultural-related disciplines.


Education Department Issues More Than $84 Million in Grants to HBCUs

The U.S. Department of Education announced grants totaling nearly $85 million to 96 historically black colleges and universities. The grants, made under the Strengthening Historically Black Colleges and Universities Program, will fund student services, faculty and staff development, curriculum development, community outreach programs, and teacher education programs.

A complete listing of the grants is available by clicking here.


Emory University to Award Seven James Weldon Johnson Medals

On November 8, Emory University will award seven individuals with its 2010 James Weldon Johnson Medals. The medals are awarded to individuals whose “achievements in civil rights, law, and humanitarian service reflect a deep and unwavering commitment to civil and human rights.” The awards honor James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938), the legendary African-American writer, journalist, educator, diplomat, poet, composer, and civil rights leader.

This year’s honorees are:

Lucy Cline Huie, co-founder of project HOPE, which worked to desegregate Georgia’s schools in the 1940s and 1950s;

Deborah E. Lipstadt, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University;

Joseph E. Lowery, former president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference;

Robert P. Moses, founder of The Algebra Project and former field leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee;

Leah Ward Sears, a lawyer who served from 2005-09 as chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court;

• The late Sondra K. Wilson, founder of the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Foundation; and

Andrew J. Young, former mayor of Atlanta and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Appointments, Promotions, and Resignations

• Felicia L. Townsend, assistant dean of recruitment, admissions, and marketing, and director of the Center for Professional Excellence at the Dominican University Graduate School of Social Work in River Forest, Illinois, was elected chair of the marketing communications committee of the National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals.

Townsend is a graduate of DePaul University. She holds a master’s degree in education from the University of Illinois at Chicago and an MBA from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

• Ralph Johnson was named vice president for business and finance at Alabama A&M University. He was vice president for business and finance at Norfolk State University in Virginia.

A certified public accountant, Johnson is a graduate of Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. He holds an MBA from Tulane University.

• Elfred A. Pinkard was appointed executive vice president and chief operating officer at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was the executive director of the UNCF Institute for Capacity Building in Atlanta. Previously he was an administrator at Dillard University, Spelman College, and Paul Quinn College.

Dr. Pinkard is a graduate of Morehouse College. He holds a master’s degree in educational psychology from Howard University and an educational doctorate from Harvard University.

• Aristide J. Collins Jr. was appointed senior executive director of board relations and secretary of George Washington University in the nation’s capital. He was vice president for institutional advancement and university relations at Clark Atlanta University.

• Lonnie H. Norris, dean of the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine since 1996, announced that he will step down from the post in August 2011. He has been on the Tufts faculty since 1977.

Dr. Norris did his dental training and earned a master’s degree in public health at Harvard University.

• Adele C. Brumfield was appointed director of undergraduate admissions and recruitment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was the associate admissions director at the University of Chicago.

Brumfield is a graduate of Marquette University and holds a master’s degree in telecommunications from Michigan State University.

• Nigel Alston was appointed executive director for marketing, alumni, and community relations at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina. He is vice chair of the board of the Center for Design Innovation and chair of the BBB Education Alliance.

• Ben Vinson III was named vice dean for centers and interdepartmental programs at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He will continue to serve as a professor of history at the university.

A graduate of Dartmouth College, Vinson holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University.

• Eppechal T. Smalls was named vice president for development at Wilberforce University in Ohio. Smalls is a 1998 alumnus of Claflin University where, after graduation, he served as director of the annual fund.


What is your prediction for the midterm elections?
Democrats hold the House and Senate
GOP wins the House but not the Senate
GOP wins the Senate but not the House
GOP controls both the House and Senate


Arizona Voters Asked to Decide Fate of Race-Based Admissions and Hiring at State Universities

On November 2, voters in Arizona will be asked to vote yes or no on ballot Proposition 107, also known as the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative. Voters will decide whether to amend the state constitution to prohibit racial preferences in hiring, contracting, or admissions decisions by any agency of the state government. This would include state-operated colleges and universities. Similar measures have been approved by voters in California, Nebraska, Michigan, and Washington.

In an election cycle in which GOP turnout is expected to be high, most political pundits believe the initiative stands a good chance to pass.

Blacks make up 5 percent of the undergraduate students at Arizona State University in Tempe. At the University of Arizona in Tucson, blacks are 3 percent of the undergraduates.



Kansas State University Reports Progress in Student Diversity

Kansas State University in Manhattan reports that enrollments have reached a record high and the student body is more diverse than at any time in the university’s history. There are 23,588 students on campus this fall. There are nearly 3,000 students of color, an increase of 18 percent from a year ago.

There are 993 African-American students at Kansas State. They make up 4.2 percent of the total enrollments. Myra Gordon, associate vice president for diversity and dual career development, stated, “We have our legs underneath us now in multicultural student recruitment. We are making real strides in improving multicultural student retention, and we have a reputation among multicultural constituencies in the region as the college destination of choice.”


Record Number of Low-Income Students at the University of California

Using annual federal data on Pell Grant recipients, JBHE ranks the nation’s highest-rated liberal arts colleges and research universities by the percentage of low-income students on campus. (click here for the latest report.) The University of California at Berkeley and the University of California at Los Angeles typically have a far greater percentage of low-income students than all of the other high-ranking universities and liberal arts colleges.

Now a new report shows that at all nine undergraduate campuses of the University of California, 39 percent of the students come from low-income families. This is up 8 percentage points from two years ago. This is the largest percentage of students from low-income families in the university system’s history. This year, there are more than 70,000 low-income students enrolled at the University of California campuses.



The Remarkable Success of the PhD Project in Increasing the Number of Minority Faculty at U.S. Business Schools

Sixteen years ago the PhD Project was created in order to increase the number of blacks and other minorities on the faculties of American business schools. The PhD project acts as an information clearinghouse and mentoring organization to African Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians who pursue doctoral studies in business disciplines. The project, which is supported by a large number of corporations and foundations, steers minority students to organizations that can fund their doctoral studies.

Since 1994 the number of minority business faculty has grown from 294 to 1,051.  In the 2009-10 academic year, 47 minority professors earned tenure at U.S. business schools. Another 50 minority scholars were hired to tenure-track positions. Eleven minority scholars were promoted to department chair or dean at a business school.

At the present time there are 400 minority students supported by the PhD project in business doctoral programs.

Colonel Reb’s Replacement

It has been seven years since Colonel Reb, the mascot of the University of Mississippi, patrolled the sidelines at football games. The administration decided at the time that a caricature of a southern plantation owner and Confederate Army officer was not a proper mascot for a university where 14 percent of the students are black. But it was not until this year that the university banned the sale of licensed merchandise that included the image of Colonel Reb.

Now the university has unveiled a new mascot to replace Colonel Reb. The new mascot is a bear that happens to be black. Rebel Black Bear was chosen from among three finalists in a vote by students, faculty, alumni, and season ticket holders to Ole Miss football games.


Vanderbilt and Meharry Team Up to Fight Sickle Cell Disease

Vanderbilt University and Meharry Medical College, both located in Nashville, Tennessee, have established the Center for Excellence in Sickle Cell Disease. The center will provide advanced care to sufferers of sickle cell disease and will conduct research on treatments and a possible cure.

While people of any race can have the sickle cell trait, the disease is far more common among African Americans than it is among whites. About one in every 400 African Americans is born with the sickle cell trait.

Michael R. DeBaun has been named director of the new center and vice chair for clinical affairs for the department of pediatrics at the Vanderbilt University medical school. He is currently serving as professor of pediatrics, biostatistics and neurology at Washington University in St. Louis. A native of St. Louis, Dr. DeBaun earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Howard University. He received his medical degree and a master’s degree in health services research from Stanford University. He will begin work in Nashville next month.


In Memoriam

Barbara K. Curry

Barbara Curry, professor in the School of Education at the University of Delaware, died late last month after battling lung cancer.

Professor Curry, who was on the faculty at the University of Delaware for two decades, taught master’s and doctoral degree courses and was the coordinator of the educational doctorate program at the university.

A graduate of Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Professor Curry held a master of social work degree from the University of Wisconsin and an educational doctorate from Harvard University. She was the author of Women In Power: Pathways to Leadership in Education (Teachers College Press, 2000).



Honors and Awards

• M. Nia Madison, a microbiologist and UNCF/Merck Postdoctoral Fellow at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, was one of five women scientists to receive a L’Oreal USA Fellowship for Women in Science. She receives a $60,000 grant to continue her research on HIV.

• James Hill, senior vice president and special assistant to the president of the University of Texas at Austin, has been chosen to receive the Marks of Excellence Award from the central Texas chapter of the National Forum of Black Public Administrators.

Dr. Hill is a graduate of Huston-Tillotson University. He holds master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Texas at Austin.


Grants and Gifts

The University of Connecticut Health Center received a two-year, $561,069 grant from the Connecticut Health Foundation for a computer-based health screening system to improve care for low-income and underserved populations.

• Wilberforce University, the historically black educational institution in Ohio, received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The money will be used to strengthen academic programs and to enhance the university’s physical plant.

Historically black Saint Augustine’s College in Raleigh, North Carolina, received a two-year, $500,000 grant from the North Carolina Department of Transportation to increase the number of black and other minority students who pursue careers in the transportation industry.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration issued grants totaling $1,150,000 to nine colleges and universities for programs to increase the number of minority students pursuing careers in mathematics, engineering, and the sciences. Among the educational institutions receiving grants were several historically black institutions including Spelman College, Virginia State University, and Fayetteville State University.

• Alcorn State University, the historically black educational institution in Mississippi, was awarded a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The money will be used to develop curriculum in advanced technologies.

The black studies program at Boston University received a $180,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support two weeklong summer workshops for K-12 teachers. The subject of the workshop will be African Americans in Massachusetts.

• Bowie State University, the historically black educational institution in Maryland, received a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to fund its TRIO/Student Support Services program. The purpose of the program is to provide academic and other support services for low-income students in order to increase retention and graduation rates.

Copyright © 2010. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.