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Doris Hicks and members of the Polk County Chapter of the FAMU National Alumni Association were among a group of alumni whose names were installed at the Eternal Flame during a spring ceremony honoring their endowment contributions.



FAMU’S MILLION-DOLLAR SCHOLAR Why Emmanuel Blake Dawson Chose the “Hill”


COVER STORY: KEEPERS OF THE FLAME Alumni Reach Back to Establish Scholarship Endowments


THE KINSEY STORY A Labor of Love and a Lesson for the World


DEFINING DISTINCTION The Impact of the College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities


TEDDY B. TAYLOR From Dream Child to Diplomat

34 42

FAMU DOCTORS An Antidote to a Medical Crisis



BORN TO LEAD The Passion and Purpose of Imani Johnson


FACES OF FAMU Highlighting Leaders in Research


04 President’s Message 05 Editor’s Letter 54 Campus Notes 58 From the Bookshelf 60 Fallen Rattlers

INTERIM UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT Larry Robinson, Ph.D. EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR COMMUNICATIONS Kathy Y. Times EXECUTIVE EDITOR Kanya Stewart COPY EDITORS Vickie Hampton Ron Hartung Sabrina Thompson LAYOUT AND DESIGN Charles R. Collins III B. Jarrod Eason STAFF WRITERS Shandra Hill Smith Brian Lucas, DM Veronique George Joyce Elllenwood Kailah Lawson Domonique Davis Deja Allen Pernell Mitchell Katherine Brinkley-Broomfield PRINCIPAL PHOTOGRAPHER Adam VL Taylor PHOTOGRAPHY CONTRIBUTORS Tony Leavell Billy Howard U.S. Embassy South Africa Ramon Benton Honda Vaughn Wilson D’Artagnan Winford Meek-Eaton Black Archives The Kinsey Collection EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT Tawanda Finley ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT Lawana Clark EVENTS, MARKETING, ADVERTISING Vernon Bryant Jon Brown EDITORIAL ASSISTANTS Tashavia Graham Mariah Brown Maritza Bannerman FOR MORE INFORMATION (850) 599-3413 Twitter: Facebook Search: Florida A&M University YouTube: FAMUTube1887 The A&M Magazine is the official magazine of Florida A&M University, and is designed to inform alumni, supporters and friends about issues of importance at the University. This public document was promulgated at a total cost of $10,608.09 or $1.06 per copy. FAMU is an Equal Opportunity/Equal Access University.

Dear Alumni and FAMU Supporters: We are excited to share our latest edition of A&M Magazine. The stories on the pages that follow offer great hope for the future of our rich legacy, as they reflect the strength of our alumni, the ingenuity of our faculty and the brilliance of our students. One of the most memorable icons on FAMU’s campus is the Eternal Flame, which represents how the spirit and influence of this great institution will live on forever. The individuals and programs highlighted in this issue showcase how Rattlers everywhere help to keep FAMU’s light burning bright for all the world to see through the dedication of their time, treasure and talent. This spring, I was honored to participate in the University’s Endowment Plaque Unveiling Ceremony held at the heart of our campus around the Eternal Flame. During this event, we honored several FAMUans who have contributed thousands of dollars toward creating endowments with the goal of providing scholarships to our deserving students. The compassion and commitment of those individuals are highlighted in our cover story, “Keepers of the Flame.” The ceremony was reflective of what we all love most about FAMU – its promise of excellence and its history of love and charity. Students told stories of how the scholarships they received, as a result of the endowments, helped them to overcome debt and to focus on academics. Alumni shared the invaluable impact that FAMU has had on their lives. Faculty and staff offered their appreciation for the important role that FAMU supporters play in ensuring our continued ability to offer world-class academic programs. Their words painted a beautiful portrait of how FAMU has set the bar in developing current and future leaders who help to make our world a better place. They revealed just why Rattlers like Lisa LaBoo, Sandra Reddick (wife of the late Hubert Reddick), John Ward and Arnette Scott-Ward, and Doris Hicks and the Polk County alumni chapter are so compelled to give back to FAMU, paving the way for the next generation to open the doors of opportunity. As you read the moving stories in this issue, I encourage you to reflect on how you too can be “Keepers of the Flame.” We know that all of our alumni, students, faculty and staff have something special to offer, whether it’s recruiting the next Rattlers or “Investing in Champions.” We welcome your support with open hearts and arms and thank you for your faithfulness to FAMU. Please continue to share the “Great Things Happening at FAMU Every Day.” Yours in Service,

Larry Robinson, Ph.D. Interim President


Greetings, Rattlers: Welcome to the summer edition of the award-winning A&M Magazine. As a 2004 graduate of the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication, I know firsthand the value of a FAMU education. Not only did I have access to stellar educators and innovative programs, but also I was surrounded by a support system of Rattlers who inspired me to pursue my dreams no matter the odds against me. In this issue, we highlight students who also benefited from that inspiration, such as our “Million-Dollar Scholar” Emmanuel Blake Dawson, NASA-bound scientist Erica Morgan West and our outgoing servicedriven Mister and Miss FAMU, Randall L. Griffin and Amberly R. Williams. These Rattlers tell the story of how the FAMU network inspired them to break barriers, serve others and reach for the stars. And just like our students, in this issue, our alumni proclaim how FAMU transformed and shaped them into the leaders and trailblazers they are today. Alumna Mitzi Miller, who was recently inducted into the College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities’ Gallery of Distinction, reveals in “Defining Distinction” how FAMU gave her the platform to become a media maven. She believes the skills she gained helped her launch into a career that boasts her serving as the editor-in-chief for both EBONY and JET magazines, as well as her new role as the head of development at Rainforest Entertainment alongside fellow Rattler Rob Hardy. In the story “Project Grad,” alumnus Gary Black discusses how the financial support he received in college inspired him to donate to the University’s scholarship fund that helps students in need cover the cost of fees to ensure on-time graduation. These are just a few examples of the stories you will find on the pages of this issue, which offer a deeper glimpse into how the FAMU network is making a difference. And speaking of making a difference, our faculty are continuing to provide solutions to the world’s most crucial needs, from cancer research to improving our water quality. The summer installment of “Faces of FAMU” highlights some of these influential innovators. Another difference-maker showcased in this issue is a partner organization. In the story “Investing in Champions,” we explore how a grant from the NCAA is helping our student-athletes excel in the classroom and on the field. As you can see, the stories you will find in this issue all have one thing in common. All of the featured people, programs and organizations in some shape or form play a unique role in advancing FAMU’s mission and helping us to realize our vision, making them all “Keepers of the Flame.” Enjoy! With Rattler Pride,

Kanya Stewart Executive Editor LETTERS TO THE EDITOR The A&M Magazine welcomes letters to the editor about stories in its issues. We reserve the right to edit emails and letters for clarity or space. Emails may be sent to: or letters may be mailed to the Office of Communications, Florida A&M University, 1601 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Suite 200 Lee Hall, Tallahassee, Florida 32307-3100. A&M MAGAZINE // SPRING 2017 // 5



The Million-Dollar scholar

EMMANUEL BLAKE DAW$ON If academia had a National Signing Day similar to the NBA’s, Emmanuel Blake Dawson would have been the top draft pick. In spring 2016, the nation and media were abuzz about the high school senior whose academic prowess garnered him more than $1 million in scholarship offers. Graduating from high school with a 4.2 GPA and 28 on the ACT, Dawson’s academic caliber earned him full rides to three universities, as well as five-digit offers from eight other universities, a total scholarship offering of $1,002,836. He quickly became known as “The Million-Dollar Scholar.” He also received the Brown-Forman Summer Internship Scholarship, the Brown-Forman Youth Achievers Scholarship, the Humana Summer Internship Scholarship, the Humana Youth Achievers Scholarship,

the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship, the Rowan Family Reunion Scholarship and the YMCA Youth Character Award Scholarship. “It was just really nice to make my granny proud,” Dawson said, reflecting on how it felt to receive so many scholarship offers. “She passed away before getting to see me receive all of these scholarships. But I always promised her, ‘I am going to graduate as valedictorian,’ which I did, and ‘I am going to graduate from college debt-free,’ which I will.” Fast-forward one year and the Louisville, Kentucky, native is spending spring 2017 on the campus of Florida A&M University— having turned down offers from Bellarmine, Butler, Concordia of Chicago, Eastern Kentucky, Fisk, Hampton, Kentucky, Louisville, Northern

Kentucky and Pittsburgh universities. He is thriving in FAMU’s School of Business and Industry (SBI), majoring in business administration. And if you ask him if he made the right choice, his answer without hesitation is “yes.” “When I came and toured FAMU, I felt the love. Everything about it felt like home. It didn’t matter who I approached on campus, they were always ready, warm and welcoming,” said Dawson, who is involved in several student organizations on campus, including the FAMU Kinship of Big Brother Little Brother Mentoring Program, the Honor Student Association and the Student Financial Organization. With so many offers to choose from, Dawson said, it was a call from an SBI recruiter that sealed the deal. O’Hara Hannah

called Dawson personally to tell him he’d been offered a full-ride scholarship to FAMU. “We talked for about an hour about all the great things SBI had to offer,” Dawson recalled. “It was then that I knew FAMU would be the right place for me to go. It was one of the best days ever.” During his freshman year, it was FAMU’s familyoriented environment that helped him navigate through a difficult health issue. He spent his first semester in and out of the hospital due to an enlarged heart. But with encouragement and support from his professors and friends in the SBI Living-Learning Community (LLC) at FAMU Village, he finished the semester with a 3.8 GPA, making the Dean’s List and growing to further appreciate his choice to become a Rattler.4

A&M MAGAZINE // SUMMER 2017 // 7

“My friends in my LLC were the reason why I could finish the first semester,” Dawson said. “I had to go to the hospital multiple nights in a row. But, showing just why we are called the ‘College of Love and Charity,’ they worked with me to make sure I could keep up with my course load, ensuring that I would still be successful. I think that’s what FAMU is all about and why FAMU is so important.” Dawson explained that FAMU’s Living-Learning Communities add something special to the college experience. “I love it,” he said. “We go to class together and have study sessions together. I’ve never been in a place where I’ve been so comfortable to be myself.”

According to his father, Greg Dawson, Dawson’s enrollment at FAMU is more than a story of a top scholar finding the right college choice. It highlights the important role of AfricanAmerican educators and historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). “His mom is an educator and my mom is an educator. So every day, education has been a recurring theme in his life,” Greg Dawson said. “He’s going to be the fifth-generation college-educated person in the family, and he understands the value of attending an HBCU. Not just the rigor, but the social and historical value also.” Mom, Opal Dawson, agreed. “We had many choices and


many schools recruited him, but it was when we came to visit FAMU that we realized that this was the other piece of the puzzle that would meet his needs,” she said. As he prepares to enter his sophomore year, Emmanuel Blake Dawson has one message he wants to give to the upcoming class of scholars making their school choice: “FAMU and its business school are just as stellar as the Harvards, the Whartons, the Yales and the Princetons of the world.” He added: “No one will love you like an HBCU will love you. Although you’re in college with a lot of other students, you’re not just a number at FAMU.

They really care for you here. Anything you want to do, you can do it here at FAMU. Anything is possible on the ‘Hill.’”

Help Support Scholarships and Living-Learning Communities! Donate online at:

A&M MAGAZINE // SPRING 2017 // 9

BY [Shandra Hill SMITH]

Building on the largest fundraising totals in its 129-year history, Florida A&M University is witnessing record giving from supporters. During the 2015-2016 year, FAMU raised a record $6.5 million. That followed $5.8 million between 2014 and 2015. To date, the institution’s endowment total of more than $119 million is the largest of any public historically Black college or university (HBCU). According to University 50 percent, strengthen corporate and administrators, FAMU’s fundraising foundation giving by 100 percent and success can be attributed to alumni increase alumni engagement by more who are answering the call for support than 50 percent, said Cotton. — as FAMU prepares for a $100 Over the past several years, million capital campaign, and at a individuals, families and alumni groups critical time when some HBCUs are from around the country have come challenged in their fundraising efforts. through for the University, helping “We are extremely excited about to pave the way for a successful the spirit of giving being felt across campaign with endowment gifts our University community,” said of $100,000 or more to support George Cotton Sr., vice president for student scholarships. A new cohort of University Advancement. “In a time donors recently added to that legacy when HBCUs around the nation are and received recognition for their experiencing a decline in resources, contributions during the 2017 Spring I think it speaks volumes about the Endowed Plaque Unveiling Ceremony level of financial support we are at the Eternal Flame. During the receiving from our alumni and donors stirring ceremony, engraved plaques who believe in our passion for this were unveiled and installed around wonderful institution.” the Flame in honor of the supporters, In addition to the capital campaign, etching their investment in student there will be a push to expand retention and success in the non-alumni and stakeholder giving by University’s legacy. 10 // FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE

The 2017 honorees are Lisa Rae LaBoo, Hubert Reddick (posthumously), John Ward and Arnette Scott-Ward, and the FAMU National Alumni Association’s Polk County Chapter — all of whom have given $100,000 or more to FAMU. The substantial gifts will create four endowments for student scholarships, helping to ensure that the next generation of Rattler alumni are prepared to make their mark in the world. “Thank you for the difference your generous philanthropy has had and will have on the lives of deserving students,” said Interim President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., during the ceremony. “There is a dollar amount on your gift, that’s why we have the plaques, but the value of your support and commitment to the University is immeasurable.”


I love FAMU and am so grateful for what the University has done for me and my entire family. GIVING FROM THE HEART Lisa Rae LaBoo knows all too well the importance of receiving financial support to ensure successful degree completion. She considers her $100,000 gift to FAMU a payment on a debt of gratitude. “God put this on my heart to give,” said LaBoo, who earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from FAMU. “It is important for me to give back and be a blessing to our children while I can live to see it.” LaBoo, who met her husband, Christopher, at FAMU, is a living testament to the importance of investing in student scholarships and the return on investment that goes along with giving back. While studying at FAMU, she was able to lessen her financial load thanks to two scholarships and two internships. A scholarship from General Motors covered her last two years of college, providing her a stipend each semester and paid internships with GM in Michigan. To help toward her MBA, she said, she received a scholarship from the late Sybil C. Mobley, founding dean of the School of Business and Industry. “I love FAMU and am so grateful for what the University has done for me and my entire family,” LaBoo said. “I hope and pray that more FAMUans will find it in their hearts to give back and support this great institution.” Today, the impact of scholarship support is evident in LaBoo’s successful career. She is the president of Prosperity Investment Services Inc., and Prosperity Real Estate LLC. As a member of the FAMU Foundation Board of Directors, LaBoo passionately lends her expertise in leadership and finance, garnered through her success at such organizations as Florida Power, Xerox, Coldwell Banker and Nationwide Retirement Solutions and Life Insurance.4

AN ENDURING LOVE Lisa LaBoo, her husband Christopher, and daughter Alexus (one of three children who are also Rattlers) share a special bond that centers on their love for FAMU.

A&M MAGAZINE // SUMMER 2017 // 11

His life-long dream was to be ab opportunity to enjoy FULFILLING A ‘LIFELONG DREAM’ TO GIVE Another alum whose life was impacted by the support he received while a student at FAMU is the late Hubert Reddick. Through his will, he provided a $100,000 gift to create an endowed scholarship at FAMU. According to Cotton, planned or estate gifts such as Reddick’s are a reminder of the unique giving opportunities available at the University. Reddick’s wife, Sandra Reddick, presented his donation to FAMU in his honor. During the endowment plaque unveiling ceremony, her emotional remarks underscored her husband’s passion and pride for FAMU. “His lifelong dream was to be able to support and give others the opportunity to enjoy life at FAMU,” she said. “Giving to FAMU was his deepest desire. We hope that the students receiving the scholarships given in his name will perform outstandingly. I thank God for my husband’s vision.” A native of Lake Park, Georgia, Reddick passed away in March 2014. He worked for the state of Georgia’s Department of Family and Children and the Valdosta State Prison, and earned his bachelor’s degree from FAMU and a master’s degree in education from Bank Street College of Education. He was a life member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. The Reddicks’ compassion is already making an impact. The Hubert Reddick Endowed Scholarship for 2017-2018 has been awarded, and its first two recipients were present at the unveiling ceremony to express their gratitude. Aliyah Van Duyne, a senior majoring in social work, and Nehemiah Nash, a senior sociology major, both agree that their lives have been changed thanks to the kindness of the Reddick family.

A HEART FOR STUDENTS Sandra Reddick discusses her husband, Hubert, and his passion for supporting students with scholarship recipients Nehemiah Nash and Aliyah Van Duyne.


ble to support and give others the life at FAMU. WE LOVE THE ‘HILL’ Nash explained that the Reddick gift has already begun to help him focus more on academics and allowed him to cut back on working more than 35 hours a week while balancing a 15-credit-hour course load. “This (spring) semester has been very challenging for me. But after I took a step out on faith, opportunities began to open up and I learned about this scholarship,” Nash said. “The Reddick Scholarship has helped me out tremendously and has relieved much of my stress. I am grateful.” Also using their $100,000 gift to establish a scholarship endowment are two life members of the FAMU National Alumni Association, John Ward and Arnette Scott Ward. They are enjoying retirement life in Tallahassee and sharing the fruits of their labor with the bright minds being developed at FAMU. “Arnette and I felt in our hearts an obligation to do whatever it was that was needed to assist and give back to Florida A&M University,” John Ward said. “We love the ‘Hill.’ We love FAMU. We are so grateful, so giving back to FAMU is something that had to be done, and we are glad that we are in a position to do that.” The Wards both earned bachelor’s degrees from FAMU. Arnette received certification from the Educational Management Program at Harvard University and worked as a dean and provost, as well as served as founding president emeritus of the Chandler/Gilbert Community College. John worked as a management executive with Motorola Inc. The two earned master’s degrees from Arizona State University.4

AN EXPRESSION OF GRATITUDE John Ward and Arnette Scott-Ward’s endowment gift served as an opportunity for them to show the University appreciation for the strong foundation it provided for their successful careers.

A&M MAGAZINE // SUMMER 2017 // 13

Having funds available for our st an avenue for them to graduate on and be productive members of societ global economy ‘COMMITTED AND FOCUSED’

For 20 years now, FAMU’s National Alumni Association Polk County Chapter has supported the University through fundraising, including raffle and dinner sales, and an annual scholarship gala. Several years ago, the group decided to focus its efforts on creating an endowment to provide scholarships to deserving FAMU students from Polk County. Reflecting its unwavering support for the University, the group’s $100,000 scholarship endowment was completed in three years — two years earlier than the traditional five-year pledge period. “The plan was an easy sell because a high level of excitement was created about establishing an endowment on the campus in our name,” said Doris L. Hicks, chapter president. “The FAMU Polk County alumni chapter’s motto has been ‘Teamwork is the only work that works.’ From the beginning, we stayed committed and focused. We will continue to grow the endowment by putting more into it yearly.” The chapter now is focusing on investing in Save Our Students (S.O.S), a retention initiative by the National Alumni Association to support students who risk dropping out because of financial struggles. “We’ve noticed a lot of students not coming back to FAMU because they didn’t have the finances to pay off their balances,” said William Hudson Jr., Ph.D., vice president for Student Affairs. Hudson said this is particularly true between sophomore and senior years. Students have had to take out loans, while some 50 percent of the student body have had to rely on Pell Grants, he added. “This means students may have enough money from federal funds to support their tuition,” said Hudson, “but as far as their housing, their books, their meal plans and the other associated costs that go along with a college education, they may not have the funds to support that.” And without the ability to pay these fees, some students find themselves with no alternative but to pause their coursework. A WOMAN WITH A PLAN Polk County Alumni Chapter President Doris Hicks used a strategic fundrasing plan to ensure that Rattlers in the Polk County area had an opportunity to unite in creating an endowment at FAMU.

However, thanks to committed alumni, the tide is turning, Hudson said, adding that funds raised by alumni go into student accounts to help support their efforts to stay in school. “Economics are the biggest barrier for our students when it comes to their being able to graduate,” said Hudson.


tudents really provides n time and to get out ty and be ready for the y,. ENSURING THAT A ‘LEGACY LIVES FOREVER’

Past Endowment Donors (Individuals and Corporations) Frederick S. Humphries & Antoinette M. Humphries Philip Morris International, Inc. T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh Sprint-Nextel Corporation Kimberly-Clark Corporation

Another alumni group has also hit a significant fundraising milestone.

William Patrick Belin

Just in time for the start of the

Thelma Jones Vriend

2016-2017 academic year, the

Deloitte & Touche Foundation

Washington, D.C., FAMU National

3M Corporation

Alumni Association Chapter provided the University $266,000 in July 2016, one of

Juanita E. Orr & Virginia P. Orr

the largest donations from a single alumni

Florida A&M University National Alumni Association

chapter in recent years. The funds have been earmarked for

Marva Bradley Harris

establishing the Washington, D.C., Chapter Annie B. Pharr Endowed Scholarship to

Deitra Benton

benefit students attending FAMU who are

Michael L. Reid & Audrey J. Jones-Reid

from the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia areas.

Rodney H. & Madeline D. Portier

The donation is the result of an estate gift bequeathed to the chapter by the late Annie

Mirion P. & Geraldine N. Bowers

B. Pharr, who received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from FAMU in 1946. Pharr held

Capital Health Plan & Edwin Thorpe

senior management positions, such as head

Pete Griffin & Hansel E. Tookes

nurse and director of training at Freedman

Jacquelyn T. Hartley

Hospital in Washington, D.C. “We chose to establish the endowment

Selvin & Sharon Cobb

at the FAMU Foundation so that Annie B.

Lawton Williams & Bobbie Barnes Williams Jr.

Pharr’s legacy could live forever while also helping the University fill the funding gap for students,” said Artie L. Polk, D.Min., chapter

Ford Motor Corporation


FAMU Foundation, Inc

According to Hudson, the financial

Next Era Energy, Inc. (Florida Power & Light)

commitments made by these dynamic alumni are the ignition that helps to keep FAMU’s students and its Eternal Flame shining brightly. “Having funds available for our students really provides an avenue for them to graduate on time,” he said, “and to get out and be productive members of society and be ready for the global economy.”

BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS Vice President for Student Affairs William Hudson Jr., Ph.D., paid tribute to alumni during the endowment ceremony, stating that their contributions help students overcome obstacles and achieve goals.

Barber Construction (Rattler Construction) Accenture LLP Procter & Gamble/Gillette Company Worldwide Bank of America Charitable Foundation (NationsBank) Eli Lilly & Company Mead Westvaco Foundation



BY [Domonique DAVIS]

Each semester, students eagerly log into their online accounts to register for courses. While some are excited about meeting new instructors and learning new material, others are left with feelings of anxiety — that is, when they see outstanding balances that will keep them from enrolling.

JELIAH JONES, a junior biology and pre-dentistry student, knows that anxiety all too well. With an account balance of more than $5,000 going into her sophomore year, she was in desperate need of financial assistance but didn’t know where to turn. “I had been trying to find assistance for a while, but I wasn’t having very much luck,” she said. The Chicago native initially relied on her father to pay her tuition. But a tragic turn of events left her struggling to continue her education. “When I first got here, my dad covered it all, but after my first semester my dad passed away,” she explained. “Due to some ongoing legal battles, I wasn’t able to receive any money after he died, so it’s all just been really hard.” Jones somehow managed to excel academically while working in a tutoring lab and in a work-study position. Still, her income was not enough to cover her mounting out-of-state tuition and fees. After meeting with a variety of administrators in search of scholarships and other financial assistance opportunities, Jones was referred to University Advancement. There, she met scholarship coordinator KELLY MARSH. “When I talked to Ms. Marsh and told her my story, she told me she would put me up for Project Grad,” Jones said. “Eventually, she called me back and told me I had been chosen and they would help me pay my balance. They paid it down to almost $500, and I was

Every time we see her, her grades have improved... - Kelly Marsh, Scholarship Coordinator

speechless and so grateful.” Project Grad was established recently to help students with emergency funding needs. Funded through alumni, community and other external donors, the program is open to students of any major at any point in their college career. Though donor appeals are typically made in the spring, assistance is provided year-round. After hearing Jones’ story and reviewing her transcripts and financial aid history, Marsh knew she would be the ideal Project Grad candidate. “She is the prototype when you think of students who are here and constantly working to better themselves and their situation,” Marsh said. “She didn’t come to us looking for a handout, and she shows her gratitude by continuing to perform in school.” Thanks to Project Grad, Jones is on track to graduate in May 2018, and she also has secured two internships that will help on her journey toward becoming an orthodontist. “Every time we see her, her grades have improved,” said Marsh. “She could have received the money and just coasted until graduation, but she used her situation as a catalyst to continue to improve. I’m motivated by her will.” For Marsh, success stories like Jones’ are what make her efforts worthwhile. “Stories like Jeliah’s are the reason why I continue to do this,” she said. “I just graduated in May 2015. I had a hard time finding funding, so I have a different type of investment in this role. It’s a 4 A&M MAGAZINE // SUMMER 2017 // 17

great feeling. I have to feel like I’m touching and having some kind of effect on someone’s life. One day, I hope to be able to make a larger impact the way the donors do.” GARY BLACK, a Project Grad donor and FAMU alumnus, said the thought of making a difference in a student’s life is especially rewarding because he was in a similar position as a student. “I relied on financial assistance as a student,” Black said. “I needed help and took it wherever I could get it. That’s why I think all alumni should give something back to the University in some way.” After receiving a letter in the mail seeking donations for Project Grad, Black, who graduated from FAMU in 1980 with a music degree, said he felt compelled to give back. “Knowing that I’m helping students get one step closer to reaching their dreams makes it all worthwhile. It’s truly a great feeling,” Black said. “And it’s so important because I know there are so MAKING AN IMPACT many students who really need it, who don’t know how they’re Kelly Marsh (right) works with students like Jeliah Jones (left) daily to ensure they have the resources to reach their full potential. going to pay for school and graduate.” According to Marsh, while many students reach out to the Office of Advancement first, many are unaware of the resources available to them. “A lot of times, students don’t quite understand what it is that we do. They don’t know that we are here to find these donors and get these resources for them. In many ways, we act as that bridge between the student and external funding,” she said. Jones agrees that it is important for students who are experiencing financial hardships to stay informed about all possible scholarship opportunities and to continue to tell their stories — even when they feel nobody is listening. “There are so many students like me, and I would tell them all never to give up. It’s going to be a work in progress, but if you keep telling your story, eventually somebody is going to help,” Jones said. “I honestly feel like there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m going to be able to finish and go on to dental school like I’ve always dreamed. I’m from the South Side of Chicago, so even when I didn’t know how I was going to pay for school, going home was not an option.”

To donate to Project Grad and help more Rattlers reach the finish line, visit:


A&M MAGAZINE // SPRING 2017 // 19

BY [Vickie G. HAMPTON] with [Jon D. BROWN]


When Khalil Kinsey was in third grade, he asked his parents about his ancestry. Some of his classmates could trace their ancestors back to their ancestral homes in Europe or Asia. And though the project was in American history, the voluminous history books didn’t help much, since they have notoriously skimmed over or altogether neglected African-American history and its contributions to the nation’s rise. A child’s inquiry set his parents, Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, on a mission that took them around the world – in search of art and artifacts that would give their only son a

history he could be proud of. Today, The Kinsey African American Art & History Collection is one of the largest private collections of African-American art and history. It includes more than 500 pieces that span 400 years; a national touring exhibit of authentic and rare art, artifacts, books and documents; and manuscripts that tell the often untold story of African-American achievement and contribution. Considered one of the premier collections of African-American art and history in the world, the collection has been cited for three national awards, including the

President’s National Award for Museum and Library Services. But the first step on the partnership behind this world-renowned collection, which has seen 50 years of marriage and the manifestation of their dream to help educate the world on African-American history, began at Florida A&M University. “I met my wife, Shirley, in 1963 after she was arrested for demonstrating in downtown Tallahassee to open up the Florida Theatre to include Black patrons,” Bernard explained. “During the early 1960s, we were in the height of the Civil Rights 4 A&M MAGAZINE // SUMMER 2017 // 21

Movement and Tallahassee was riots. Bernard generated In 2010, the collection became After a decade of traveling one of the most segregated more than $380 million in the first-ever private collection through America, The Kinsey cities in the South.” investments from the private of African-American art to be Collection made its international Shirley recalled: “He was an sector for the inner city. displayed at the Smithsonian debut in China at the University upperclassman and I was a Currently, he is the president National Museum of American Museum and Art Gallery of the freshman, and I was only here and founder of KBK Enterprises History in Washington, D.C. University of Hong Kong. This When Khalil Kinsey was in third grade, he asked his parents about his ancestry. Some of his classmates could trace their ancestors back to do my studies. I was not here Inc., a management-consulting And approximately 40 pieces exhibition, titled “Rising Above: to their ancestral homes in Europe or Asia. And though the project was in American history, the voluminous history books didn’t help much, date. But him being who he is, firm that counsels senior-level of the collection are currently The Kinsey African American since they skimmedexecutives. over or altogether neglectedon African-American and basis its contributions the nation’s rise. he won mehave overnotoriously and we started He has consulted on display onhistory a rotating Art &toHistory Collection,” A child’s inquiry set his parents, Bernard anddevelopment Shirley Kinsey, a mission that 2018 took them around the world—in search of arttoand dating.” economic withonthe through at Walt Disney formally opened the artifacts public that would give their only son a history “he can be proud of.” They were married in governments of South Africa, World’s American Pavilion at in December 2016 and closed Today, TheinKinsey American Art andthe History Collection the largest private collections of African-American and Black Tallahassee 1967,African and had Germany, United Kingdomis one of Epcot in an exhibition titled in February 2017art during history. It includes more than 500 pieces in total,and thatwas spans 400 years;“Rediscovering a national touring exhibit of authentic and rare art, the artifacts, their reception on campus. and France, appointed America: History Month, same books, month documents; andthe manuscripts often untold of African-American achievement Considered one ofwedding the But even from high hills that tell anthe honorary consulstory general by Family Treasures fromand thecontribution. as the Kinseys’ 50th premier collections of African-American art and history in the world, collection has beenThe cited for three national awards, including the of Tallahassee, Shirley and the U.S. State Department and the Kinsey Collection.” venue anniversary. President’s National Award for Museum and Library Services. Bernard could not have the Central African Republic. is expected to draw up to 20 “We are grateful for the But theall first step onwould the partnership behindwith thisaworld-renowned collection, seen 50 years andto thecarry manifestation imagined that they Shirley, bachelor’s millionwhich peoplehas from around the of marriage opportunity the show of their collective passionnor and dream todegree help educate thestarted world on African-American history, began at Florida A&M University, where Mr. accomplish together, in English, world. to Hong Kong and show theand Mrs. Kinsey first met. imagined that from their love her career as an elementary The most poignant stop on the African-American story is “I met my awife, Shirley,that in 1963 she was arrested for demonstrating in downtown Tallahassee to open up the Florida Theatre to would grow collection has after teacher for the Compton collection’s whirlwind tour is the something that we are pleased changed the lives of thousands around the world. A Labor of Love These are the Kinsey mantras: “To whom much is given, much is required” and “Live a life of no regrets.” Bernard, who received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from FAMU, lived by those mantras and went on to blaze a remarkable career in business. He received a Master of Business Administration from Pepperdine and, during his 20-year stint at the Xerox Corp., he was one of the pioneers in breaking down racial barriers in corporate America. His leadership of the Xerox Black Employees Association led to the hiring of thousands of Black employees, women and Latinos, and is the subject of a Harvard Business School case study. In 1992, he was selected as chief operating officer and co-chairman of Rebuild L.A., tasked with the city’s economic redevelopment following the financial devastation that resulted from the Los Angeles

Unified School District. From 1973 to 1982, she worked as a training manager for Xerox. She also went on to receive her master’s degree in multicultural education from Pepperdine in 1976. From 1985 to 1995, she served as a project manager for KBK Enterprises. As they excelled in their careers, the couple never wavered in their labor of love to provide Khalil – and now the world – empirical evidence of the role African Americans played in building the nation. After decades of searching, acquiring and archiving, The Kinsey Collection was ready for touring in 2006. Tens of millions of visitors have flocked to exhibitions in more than 24 cities across the United States. But perhaps the biggest testimony to the collection’s national significance is its appearance in two of the country’s most venerable institutions: one the undisputed collector of all things Americana, the other the happiest place on earth.


one that brought the Kinseys back to where they started. From February to March 2016, Bernard and Shirley brought their collection home to FAMU with an exhibit titled “African American Treasures from The Kinsey Collection” at the FosterTanner Fine Arts Gallery. “It’s one thing to come back for homecoming and the festivities,” said Shirley at the time. “It’s another to come back and be the focus of why you’re here. So it’s a pretty special feeling.” Another full-circle moment was in handing over the management of the collection to their son, Khalil. He is now general manager and curator of The Kinsey African American Art & History Collection and Foundation. “I want young African Americans to question what they’re being taught, and to not accept the way we’re portrayed on the radio or TV, from ourselves or anybody. I want us to expand our view of what being Black means,” Khalil said.

and proud of,” said Bernard. “China is just one of the many countries that shaped the view of the American story.” Shirley agreed: “The exhibit gives the Hong Kong population a broader view of the AfricanAmerican story and who we are – not just basketball players and rappers. We have contributed a lot to building America. It is our hope that the experience provides a context to further understand the complexities of race in America and broader American history – and fosters discovery, empathy and inspiration.” A Fantastic Journey From the highest hills in Tallahassee to the most populated country on earth, it’s been a fantastic journey. But the Kinseys say their work is not yet done. They are now focused on investing in the education of young people. A 198-page book, “The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey –4

“I want young African Americans to question what they’re being taught, and to not accept the way we’re portrayed on the radio or TV ....”

-Khalil Kinsey

A&M MAGAZINE // SPRING 2017 // 23

Without Florida A&M University there wouldn’t be a Black middle class in Florida....Literally, anybody that did anything of significance got his or her include Black patrons,” Bernard explained. “DuringFAMU. the early 1960’s, we were in the height of the Civil Rights Movement and Tallahassee degree from was one of the most segregated cities in the South.” - Bernard Kinsey

Shirley recalled, “He was an upperclassman and I was a freshman and I was only here to do my studies. I was not here to date, but him, being whoArt he is, won me over and serves we startedtitled dating.” Where andheHistory Intersect,” “What You Didn’t Learn in High School was a member. Their donation will help were married Tallahassee 1967, and had their campus.toBut even fromsupport the highthe hills of Tallahassee, Shirley and asThey a companion to theincollection. Thisintext History.” Thereception program,on designed address purchase of new uniforms for Bernard could not have imagined all that they would accomplish together nor that from their love would grow a collection that has changed has been adopted by the Florida Department the large gaps in education in the areas of the world-renowned band. of Education to help teach African-American American history and the arts by highlighting With more than 20 nieces and nephews history to more than 300,000 students the accomplishments of African Americans, who’ve graduated from the University, the in grades K-12 statewide. The Kinseys are has been implemented in nine cities. Kinseys’ continued efforts to support FAMU working on a similar initiative for California The Kinseys also have financially and share its story are, for them, worth schools. supported education-based organizations every investment. In 2008, the couple established The and institutions, including raising more than “Without Florida A&M University there Bernard and Shirley Kinsey Foundation $22 million in scholarships to aid students wouldn’t be a Black middle class in Florida,” for Arts and Education, a nonprofit that attending FAMU and other schools. This Bernard said. “Literally, anybody that did works for education reform. Besides the past November, they were recognized anything of significance got his or her companion book, special programming during halftime of the 2016 Florida Classic degree from FAMU.” also includes an 18-page Newspaper in for their $500,000 pledge to support Education study guide, and a lecture series FAMU’s Marching “100,” of which Bernard


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BY [Domonique DAVIS]

As a student in the English department of the College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities (CSSAH), Mitzi Miller knew she was preparing for success, but never imagined the program would help propel her into a career as an internationally recognized writer, producer and editor.

Her story is a testament to the role that CSSAH has played in developing students who have gone on to become distinguished alumni, blazing trails in their respective fields. When she graduated with her English degree in hand, Miller began a fruitful career in print journalism, eventually serving as the editor-in-chief for both EBONY and JET magazines. She recently made the leap to television and film, working alongside fellow Rattler Rob Hardy as the head of development at Rainforest Entertainment. That’s the production company behind the hit BET show “The Quad,” which focuses on a fictional historically Black university. Though the career decision was one that Miller did not make lightly, she knew she was ready to “jump without a safety net” thanks

Defining Distinction

The College of Social Sciences, Arts & Humanities’ Legacy of Fostering Courage and Conviction

to the confidence and relentless hustle her CSSAH instructors and mentors helped instill within her. “What worked to my benefit, and what I had in my pocket, was my time and education at FAMU,” Miller said. “I knew I was prepared mentally, and I am able to think quick on my feet because that was always a requirement to be successful at FAMU.” She continued: “I tell this honestly to everybody, but especially to my fellow Rattlers, that risk is a requirement of success. You will not get to the top, you will not achieve your wildest dreams if you allow yourself to be sidelined by fear.” As an alumna, Miller said she feels compelled to prepare current CSSAH students to follow in her footsteps by sharing knowledge and wisdom, the way her mentors and instructors did for her. “Anyone who has a modicum of success, that is your true calling — to make sure the door that you opened stays open for the person coming behind you because that’s legacy-building,” she said.

Her impact has not gone unnoticed. Miller was among 13 alumni recently honored in the CSSAH Gallery of Distinction for their professional achievements. While addressing a packed house of distinguished guests at the ceremony, Valencia Matthews, the longtime dean of CSSAH, explained the deep connection she feels with CSSAH alumni as well as all FAMU students, past and present. The college is home to a number of the University’s general education courses, including English, literature, geography and history. That affords Matthews, as well as the college’s faculty and staff, the opportunity to interact with a majority of FAMU’s students while they are on the “Hill.” In fact, it’s the largest academic unit on campus. “I get to see all of the students when they come through, so they belong to us no matter what their majors may be,” Matthews said. “Their success matters to us. My goal is to ensure that students have a positive academic experience with relevant curriculum and experiences that meet the4 A&M MAGAZINE // SUMMER 2017 // 27

needs of the 21st-century workforce.” Isis Shaw, a sophomore theater student, said hearing the success stories of CSSAH alumni like Miller — and witnessing the passion of the college’s administration and faculty, coupled with its many professional development offerings — continues to motivate her to face her fears and strive for greatness. Although dance is her passion, she chose to take a leap of faith and study

actually got callbacks. Then I thought, ‘OK, if I put a little effort behind it, I can actually go somewhere.’ And now I love auditioning.” Helping students reach their full potential and venture outside of their comfort zones is a top priority for the CSSAH alumni who have returned to the “Hill” to educate the next generation of Rattlers both in and out of the classroom. Former FAMU running back and

trying to do in our department is reverse that.” As a professor in the University’s Center for Global Security and International Affairs, Daniels says it can be a challenge for students to relate to his lessons because they don’t have international experiences. But he’s determined to change that – one student at a time. “Every year that I have been here at FAMU, I’ve taken a group to TEACHING THE NEXT GENERATION CSSAH professors and alumni Christopher Daniels, Ph.D. (left), and Darryl Scriven, Ph.D. (right), infuse their classrooms with life lessons and a global worldview.

theater. But, with little experience in auditioning before arriving at FAMU, it took her a while to break out of her shell. With the support and encouragement of her professors and the entire CSSAH family, Shaw said, she found the courage to audition for the recent Essential Theatre production “Change It Up,” and she landed a role. “You never know how good you are at something until you try and give it your all,” said Shaw about one of the most important lessons she learned as a CSSAH student. “I tried and I

current political science professor Christopher Daniels, Ph.D., said he makes it his mission to introduce students to new worlds through teaching in the classroom and through travel abroad. Recently highlighted by C-SPAN for his work as an author focusing on global terrorism, Daniels knows firsthand the importance of having a global worldview. “A lot of people haven’t been anywhere past Atlanta, let alone traveling outside the country,” he said. “I think one of the special things we’re


Africa,” Daniels said. “As people are introduced to travel, then they can understand international relations better. I’ve taken close to 75 to 100 students, and the experience helps them understand the world a little better. It’s something outside of what they know and opens their minds.” According to philosophy professor Darryl Scriven, Ph.D., that’s what CSSAH is all about. From the arts to the sciences, it is the college’s mission to expose students to new worlds through the lens of liberal arts. “As our dean says, we in CSSAH

are the ambassadors of creativity and the keepers of the culture,” he said. “There is an eclectic blend of disciplines we represent. CSSAH is where we treat seriously, and give voice to, the human condition.” Scriven said he is honored to be back on the “Hill” teaching in the very department that he graduated from in 1995. He was a Fulbright Scholar to Morocco and Tunisia, and has taught at Wilberforce University, Southern University and Tuskegee University. He is also a novelist and co-founder of the African American Family Enrichment Institute. Scriven said he is grateful that he pursued his passion to study both philosophy and math because balancing the two has equipped him to truly make his mark in the world. “Philosophy spoke to my soul in ways that informed what I could do to help my family and community,” he said. “The FAMU environment had much to do with building my consciousness, and philosophy gave critical expression to those aspirations.” Through his work as an instructor, international public speaker and documentarian, Scriven said, he now is able to pay it forward by showing CSSAH students, and HBCU and minority students in general, that anything is possible when you follow your dreams. He empowers individuals around the globe with such works as his documentary “Overcoming Student Loan Debt,” his book “How to Be a Better Man in 21 Days or Less” and his YouTube broadcast “Everyday I’m Hustling.” “The impact on my students is that they see that your degree does not define your destiny,” Scriven said. “They see that if a guy from the hood can earn degrees in math and philosophy, but also write novels and make films, then there is no limit for them.”

2017 Gallery of Distinction Inductees Ramon Alexander Member of the Florida House of Representatives

John H. Pryor United States Air Force veteran and retired educator

Scotty Barnhart

Larry Richardson

Director of the Count Basie Orchestra

Mental health consultant, Jacksonville Job Corps and Jacksonville Jaguars

Kathy Garner First African-American and female judge in Gadsden County, Florida

Andrew Gillum Mayor of Tallahassee and Florida gubernatorial candidate

Terry K. Hunter International artist and arts advocate

Allezo N. Owens FAMU assistant professor of religion

Angela Robinson Actress and singer (OWN’s “The Haves and the Have Nots,” “The Color Purple”)

Tommie Shelby Harvard University professor of African and AfricanAmerican Studies

John K. Southall Director of Bands, Indian River State College

Shaun West Former U.S. Secret Service agent and entrepreneur

A&M MAGAZINE // SPRING 2017 // 29

CSSAH’s Specialty Programs, Centers and Institutes Dean Valencia Matthews, Ph.D.

My goal is to ensure that students have a positive academic experience ...

The integrated and rigorous curriculum of CSSAH opens up the world to its students through its seven degree-granting departments, which offer 12 bachelor’s degree programs and three master-level programs. At the college, students gain expansive understanding of the arts, anthropology, American history, the African-American experience, criminal justice, geography, humanities, law, modern language, music, philosophy, psychology, religion, sociology, social work and theater. In addition to these offerings, CSSAH offers several unique programs that have made an impact across the country and beyond.


Center for Ethnic Psychological Research and Application Through research, education and training, the center promotes mental wellness, enhances mental health literacy and improves overall behavioral/mental health for all individuals, with a particular focus on African-American and other underserved populations.

Institute for Research in Music and Entertainment Industry Studies This institute was created to assess the current and future state of Black popular music in America through the development of innovative student-centered programming and research. The institute’s research and academic arm focuses on popular music in its historical, cultural and aesthetic domains and its linkages to other artistic forms of representation.

Center for Global Security and International Affairs Funded by a grant awarded by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the center represents the University as an Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence. Its mission is to ensure that FAMU develops and implements a competitive program in global security and international affairs while helping to diversify the intelligence workforce with eligible applicants who possess critical core skills.

Army ROTC The FAMU Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) provides college-trained officers for the regular Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard. The mission of FAMU’s ROTC is to develop the future officer leadership of the U.S. Army and to motivate young people to become better citizens. This includes recruiting, training, evaluating, selecting and commissioning quality students for military service in the Army.

The Essential Theatre The Theatre provides students with preprofessional training achieved through classroom activities and practical production experiences. The program’s primary aim is to provide undergraduate students with the well-rounded formal preparation necessary for advanced academic or professional study and to expose the student body, the Tallahassee community and surrounding areas to the arts.

A&M MAGAZINE // SUMMER 2017 // 31


From ‘Dream Child’ to Diplomat

Throughout his career, U.S. Diplomat and Senior Foreign Service Officer Teddy B. Taylor has committed himself to preparing Florida A&M University students for professions in international affairs. 32 // FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE

I am a dream child . . . I represent the generation of African Americans whose childhood was consumed by the struggle... - Teddy B. Taylor

Taylor was instrumental in establishing a State Department Diplomat in Residence Program on FAMU’s campus. He actively recruits students to consider careers in international affairs and mentors graduates who have entered the U.S. Foreign Service and the Department of State. An unwavering commitment to FAMU has recently garnered Taylor, who is a life member of the FAMU National Alumni Association, the University’s highest honor: the Distinguished Alumni Award. Now serving as the U.S. consul general in Cape Town, South Africa, and previously serving as an appointee of former President Barack Obama as U.S. ambassador to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and the Republic of Vanuatu, Taylor says his passion for preparing the next generation of Rattlers stems from the solid education and career preparation he received at FAMU. “Professors demanded excellence and attention to details. Whether it was a paper, oral presentation or responding to a question in class, we were

expected to provide our best,” said Taylor, who received his degree in political science in 1975. “The nurturing environment permitted me to be intellectually curious without being judged. Professors were just as concerned about my social development as my academic progress.” Taylor added that his FAMU experience helped him stand out among the crowd and rise through the ranks of the Foreign Service. “I am in a profession in which 90 percent of my colleagues have graduate or professional degrees,” said Taylor, who also served as principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Human Resources in the U.S. Department of State. “Professional development training in leadership and management, foreign cultures and foreign languages is a major aspect of preparation for foreign assignments and career advancement. However, my only formal degree is my bachelor’s degree in political science from FAMU. I think that is the best indication of how well FAMU

prepared me for my career.” His extensive diplomatic career spans three decades. In South Africa, he supervises more than 100 Foreign Service employees and is responsible for all U.S. diplomatic activity in the Western, Eastern and Northern Capes (45 percent of South Africa’s geography). He also has served tours in Latin America (Guatemala, Panama and Honduras), Europe (Hungary), the Caribbean (Cuba) and the South Pacific. He served two years as a diplomat in residence at the Ralph Bunche Center at Howard University. Taylor says his ability to succeed, as a minority in a field that is still working to achieve more diversity, is the fruition of the dreams of his family, ancestors and the soldiers of the civil rights movement. “I am a dream child,” he said. “I represent the generation of African Americans whose childhood was consumed by the struggle for our constitutionally guaranteed civil rights. I was 10 years old when Dr. (Martin Luther) King gave the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. I saw Bloody Sunday on the black-and-white

television at home…. I saw myself as an extension of Dr. King’s dream.” He continued,” All of this combined to instill a drive to succeed, not just for myself, but for the rest of the African-American community. Too much had been sacrificed for me to waste my opportunity. I did not want their sacrifices to be in vain. Simply put, I was motivated to succeed as part of my contribution to the improvement of our community and people.” According to Taylor, Foreign Service is critically needed in today’s political climate and plays an integral role in ensuring Dr. King’s dream is fully realized. “U.S. diplomats tell America’s story to the world,” he said. “The story cannot be accurately portrayed without the presence of all Americans. Minorities, in particular, add a unique narrative to the conversation and promote diversity of thought, ideas and solutions to resolving the many global challenges faced around the world.”

A&M MAGAZINE // SUMMER 2017 // 33

BY [Vickie G. HAMPTON] Dr. LaSalle Leffall Jr. is perhaps the most well-known physician Florida A&M University has produced. The award-winning oncologist has made his mark as one of the nation’s most prolific leaders in the fight against cancer. But other FAMU-educated doctors also are making an imprint on the medical landscape – and that’s a testament to the University’s founding principle to produce scholars who will serve their communities. Without benefit of a medical school, FAMU’s College of Science and Technology alone accounts for the University producing nearly 50 graduates who have gone on to become medical doctors since the 1990s. These graduates’ biology, chemistry and mathematics degrees have set trajectories for their remarkable careers in medicine. FAMU’s contribution to the development of doctors is due to its commitment to a rigorous pre-medicine curriculum, a hallmark of “intensive mentoring” and the development of new innovations – all to provide an antidote to a dearth that has plagued this nation, especially the African-American community. African Americans make up 13 percent of the population but account for fewer than 4 percent of the nation’s doctors, according to the American Medical Association. While the national needle is moving slowly on this statistic, we talked with several FAMU-educated doctors and leaders who are pushing that needle and helping heal the Black community, by offering a healthy dosage of doctors who look just like them. 34 // FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE

DELOREAN GRIFFIN For DeLorean Griffin, a 2002 graduate, the story of his career in his hometown of Detroit is a tale of two cities. After earning a bachelor’s in biology from Florida A&M University and a Doctor of Medicine from Wayne State University School of Medicine in 2007, he spent five years as a general surgery resident at Detroit Medical Center in the heart of the city. The Detroit of his residency was gritty, violent and critically ill. “Detroit is poor and there’s a lot of distrust. During my surgery residency, I was dealing with the sickest of the sick,” he said. “I saw conditions like late-stage cancer, and there was a high level of violence.” After five years, Griffin turned his attention to plastic surgery. However, he did not leave behind his efforts to help those in need. He said his general surgery residency made him a more confident plastic surgeon. Second, given the dearth of Black physicians in this nation, he is a rare role model – whether he’s irrigating a deep wound or nipping and tucking. “General surgery was a steppingstone. It helped me become a better plastic surgeon,” he said. For the past two years, he has served as the only plastic and reconstructive surgeon on the staff of St. Mary Mercy Hospital Livonia. As a young doctor, he is already building a legacy. He is a member of the executive board of the Detroit Medical Society and recent honoree on the Michigan Chronicle’s “40 Under 40” list. While the new Detroit of Griffin’s medical career is suburban, bucolic and a world away from the inner city, he uses his story as an opportunity to encourage youth to live their dreams and break through barriers. Today, Griffin says, he is the only Black male plastic surgeon in Central Detroit. He knows that Black plastic surgeons make up a very small fraction of the 4 percent of Black doctors in the nation. He’s doing his part to ensure that more faces like his are added to the count. “I do a lot of mentoring,” he said. “I have students shadow me. I work with organizations like Jack & Jill and the Boy Scouts of America’s Explore Program. And I occasionally connect with FAMU students via social media to offer advice or answer questions. I tell them not to be deterred by any roadblocks or trip-ups. Be persistent. I didn’t get the score I wanted on the MCAT the first time I took it, but I was persistent.”

LAKRYSTAL WARREN When LaKrystal Warren, also a 2002 grad, was in high school, one of her best friends got pregnant. Warren accompanied her friend to all of her doctor’s visits – and thus her interest in medicine was born. She credits FAMU for the excellent preparation for her career in medicine. In fact, she said, when she entered medical school, “there was nothing I hadn’t seen before.” Warren earned her Doctor of Medicine from Wake Forest University. At Wake Forest, of the 115 total students in her class, there were seven Black females and three Black males. But their small number turned out to be a blessing in disguise. “We turned out to be a close-knit group, so in a way it was better,” she said. Today, Warren is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist. Since 2011, she has been in private practice with two female doctors she met during her residency at the University of Florida in Gainesville. The area the practice serves is affluent and diverse. Yet, Warren said she still detects evidence of the disparity in access to health care for Black women – even when finances are not at issue. “Some Black patients actively seek me out as the practice’s only Black female physician. As a Black OB-GYN, I have special insight into our culture,” she said. As a trio of female doctors, Warren and her partners are making a positive impact. “We have a good relationship in the community,” she said. “People like to see us in the community because we’re women. We give their children and daughters someone whom they can look up to. They [tell their children] to ‘stay in school and you, too, can be a doctor someday.’” 4 A&M MAGAZINE // SUMMER 2017 // 35


A NATIONAL IMPACT Dr. Mirion P. Bowers’ influence in medicine stretches across the nation. He is pictured here with his son, Jeryl (left), and former U.S. President Barack Obama.

Dr. Mirion P. Bowers, who graduated from FAMU in 1957, is a man of many legacies. The retired clinical professor at USC and assistant professor at UCLA began his legacy in medicine by becoming the first African American to have a residency in ENT (ear, nose and throat) and the first person of color to be president of the Teaching Hospital of USC, the secondoldest hospital in Los Angeles. He built on his legacy by establishing the otolaryngology residency program at Martin Luther King, Jr. General Hospital. The hospital opened in April 1972, and by the following October, Bowers had managed to open an approved ENT residency program – an “unheard of” feat. He said that, at the time, it was the only place Blacks could get into ENT. Today in general, according to Bowers, ENT is a difficult specialty to enter. With the closing of the King Hospital in 2007 (it reopened in 2015 as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital) and fierce competition in the field, many Black medical students find it difficult – if not impossible – to enter ENT programs. This dearth is evident in meetings of the National Medical Society, the largest and oldest organization representing African-American physicians and their patients in the United States. In the past, four to five Black ENT residents would attend the meetings, Bowers recalled. Now there are none. With his tenure ended as head of the MLK ENT, there is also no Black leadership in the field – which has created a breakdown in the networking apparatus that is often so critical to getting Blacks in ENT programs. Not only do medical students suffer the consequences, but so do patients and the next generation of medical scholars. “It’s good to have prominent Black people in every field of medicine so that Black patients have a choice,” Bowers said. “We have an understanding of African Americans that no one else has. It’s good for young people to see someone successful in certain fields, so that they can say, ‘Maybe I want to be like him.’” Bowers, who has 11 siblings and 30 nieces and nephews who received their degrees from FAMU, has another legacy – that of giving back. He named FAMU, as well as his other alma mater, Meharry Medical School, as a beneficiary of a $1 million life insurance policy. Of the $500,000 to go to FAMU, $400,000 is slated for scholarships and $100,000 for the University’s Meek-Eaton Black Archives. “If one is successful, you need to give it back to the community, give it back to those entities that helped you become successful so that they can provide to others and their success,” he said. 36 // FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE

It taught me resilience, perseverance, pride. Many of my classmates — and not only those in pre-medicine — took the ‘Excellence With Caring’ motto really seriously. Love and charity are part of what we do and who we are. - Dr. Valencia Walker

VALENCIA WALKER To say that 1995 graduate Valencia Walker’s medical career is impressive wouldn’t do it justice. She is an associate professor at UCLA’s medical school and medical director of the neonatal intensive care unit and the newborn nursery at UCLA Hospital. There she champions issues that affect women and babies, and their overall health and wellness. Walker also works on the Council on Legislation for the California Medical Association, playing a key role in shaping what the organization advocates for regarding policy and legislation in California. Among the issues she’s involved in are universal health care, the treatment of undocumented people in the U.S. and the opioid crisis -- some of the nation’s most hot-button health issues. As a member of the Association of American Medical Colleges, she is “always trying to champion issues that affect minorities, particularly African Americans.” And as the immediate past president of the Association of Black Women Physicians, she continues to work to “help create a pipeline for Black women doctors.” She volunteers as a faculty adviser for Haiti’s only critical-care hospital, and previously helped provide education and mobile care to indigent communities in Tanzania. This fall, Walker is taking a yearlong sabbatical to earn a master’s in public health at Harvard University. Why would the Emory University School of Medicine graduate add yet another degree to her resume? Walker said to truly understand how to improve her patients’ comprehensive health, she must learn about how laws and policies that affect them are made. “I will have a population-level impact instead of just an individual-level impact,” she said. “There are a lot of things that affect your patients. I’m taking that step back and seeing where the other pieces are broken to give my patients the best possible care.” Walker credits her FAMU education for instilling excellence that goes beyond the halls of academia and into the trenches of everyday life. “FAMU changed my life,” she said. “It taught me resilience, perseverance, pride. Many of my classmates – and not only those in premedicine – took the ‘Excellence With Caring’ motto really seriously. Love and charity are part of what we do and who we are.”4

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FUTURE LEADERS OF MEDICINE Medical Scholars Program Director Michael Smith with future doctor Michelle Wilson.

In 2012, Florida A&M University partnered with Florida Atlantic University (FAU) to establish the first-of-its-kind Medical Scholars Program (MSP). According to Michael Smith, director of MSP as well as the Office of Premedical Advisement at FAMU, FAU was seeking diversity for its new medical school, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, which had opened a year earlier. “What better way than to link up with arguably the most progressive HBCU in the nation – and it was literally in their own backyard,” said Smith. He was recruited to the post after successfully resurrecting a health academy at a local Tallahassee high school. “I was told to just go build,” he said. And build he did – from the ground up. Smith did everything from advertising to creating a database of principals and guidance counselors. Pretty soon, his efforts had reached beyond Tallahassee to South, Central and West Florida – then farther to Georgia and Texas, and today, the program has attracted students from as far away as California and Michigan. The program offers a student organization (Physicians in Training); a mentoring component that places upper-level students with lower-level students; and a living-learning community where freshmen reside with other science majors, which means tutoring and mentoring are readily available. Participants enter the program with and must maintain a 3.5 or better GPA. The high academic standard means that all of the participants are Presidential Scholars on full academic scholarships. The program’s primary goal is to admit academically talented high school students to the MSP at FAMU, with a conditional acceptance into FAU’s College of Medicine. MSP participants must successfully complete the four-year program, score well on the MCAT exam, and satisfy the requirements of the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) before moving on to FAU. “That’s what makes this a premium program,” said Smith. “There is no pipeline program quite like ours.” Supplying the nation with more African-American doctors is a dose of medicine that can improve the failing health of Black America – and that, according to Smith, is why FAMU’s role in developing the next generation of doctors is so vital. “African Americans are far more likely to address the health issues that affect African Americans, and are far more likely to go into underserved areas. We need their voices. We need their boots on the ground,” he said. Thanks to Smith’s efforts, the MSP is well on its way to meeting these needs. In May, two members of the program’s inaugural class headed to FAU’s medical school. One of them, Ugoma Onubogu, is the first African American to be accepted into FAU’s exclusive Doctor of Medicine/Doctor of Philosophy program. “We put together the best ideas and the best practices to produce the best product,” Smith said. “If you are able to get through this program, you will be a premium product.” 38 // FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE

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Dr. Decatur Rogers, my college mentor, made me believe in myself and convinced me that I possessed the skills to succeed in engineering. Dr. Rogers really boosted my self-confidence and my preparations. - Kyra Massey Kennedy

Kyra Massey Kennedy has had a gift for engineering since her early days at FAMU High, now the FAMU Developmental Research School (DRS). “Since the eighth grade and at the age of 14, I knew mechanical engineering was the field for me to pursue. I loved to build things, take electronics apart, work with robots, and was totally fascinated with making things move and how V-8 engines worked,” she said. Beginning in the sixth grade, she won first place in the school science fair four times. By the time she reached her senior year in high school, she was offered a full $46,000 Life-Gets-Better Scholarship to enroll in Florida A&M University’s joint engineering program with Florida State University. “The Life-Gets-Better Scholarship was one of the top full-ride scholarships you could receive in the ’90s. This was a huge scholarship, including classes, room and board, stipend, books and school supplies,” Kennedy said. Although Kennedy ultimately switched her major to mathematics with a minor in mechanical engineering, she nonetheless credits FAMU for providing her with the skills she needed to pursue her love to build and create. In fact, FAMU’s Minority Introduction to Engineering Summer Program in the late ’80s would be the launching pad for her becoming a technology entrepreneur, an innovative patent holder and the recipient of the Volunteer Service Lifetime Achievement Honor awarded by President Barack Obama three decades later. “FAMU has impacted my success through its programs that introduced young students to the different fields of

engineering,” Kennedy said. She said that another important component of her success was the mentoring she received from one of her professors. “Dr. Decatur Rogers, my college mentor, made me believe in myself and convinced me that I possessed the skills to succeed in engineering,” she said. “Dr. Rogers really boosted my self-confidence and my preparation.” Her FAMU experience propelled her toward a plethora of opportunities, including a meeting with Westelle Florez. The representative from the company Diesel Recon made sure she joined the People to People International Program, allowing her the opportunity to visit more than six cities in Russia as a student ambassador. She also participated in several internships with Battelle Northwest Laboratories, General Motors, Mobil Oil Corp. and Ford Motor Co. By the time she graduated in 1998, Kennedy had job offers from HewlettPackard (HP), General Motors and AlliedSignal. She accepted a position at HP as a response center engineer. She also was featured in Fortune magazine’s July 1998 issue in an article titled “Talented African Americans are Being Groomed for Big Business at Florida A&M University,” as well as in New Republic magazine in the 1999 article “Top Students to Watch.” Today, Kennedy is the chief executive officer and founder of MasKenn Inc. (a conflation of her maiden name, Massey, and her married name, Kennedy), which provides state-of-the-art devices that leverage technology, communications and sensing alongside apps and a wide range of

support services. She provides the devices to the military and medical industries, among others. In 2016, she received a patent for a moisture detection device known as the Moisture Alert Pad (MAP). Using Wi-Fi technology, the MAP detects liquid substances and sends text, smart phone, Smart TV, email and phone messages to designated recipients. Users of the technology include private health care providers, doctors’ offices, nurses, homeowners, construction contractors and veterinarians. The idea for the moisture alert technology originated 10 years ago when Kennedy wished she could be notified when her infant son wet his bedding. Kennedy also has developed eDevices that send alerts and location information, and make phone calls to the programmed recipient. The eDevices include the ePad, ePillowcase, eVest and eMVest (Military Vest) technology. “I am working with business partners such as former NBA and NFL players and other investors to fund my patented devices. I’m really excited about working with the government to help enhance my company’s advanced technology devices, as well,” Kennedy said. Her advice to FAMU’s future engineers: “I know college can be hard and you may want to give up. I know a lot of students see people make it without a degree but, trust me, a degree matters,” she said. “A degree from FAMU shows a sense of responsibility and a level of educational achievement.”

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Erica Morgan West


Recently, American moviegoers fell in love with the extraordinary stories of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. These African-American women were “Hidden Figures” who played a pivotal role in America’s victory in the space race, helping to launch astronaut John Glenn’s mission to orbit the Earth. Following in their footsteps is FAMU graduate student Erica Morgan West, who this summer will accept a position at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. There she will simulate polymer materials for spacecraft, a giant leap in helping her to realize her dream of starting her own laboratory studying simulations. West, a doctoral physics student in FAMU’s College of Science and Technology, works as a graduate research assistant in the laser remote sensing laboratory at the FAMU Center for Plasma Science and Technology. There, she focuses on working with a supercomputer to simulate different environments that allow her to determine how different materials behave under certain conditions at the molecular level. Her skillset and passion for science and technology led her to receive international recognition as the sole representative of the United States at the prestigious 2016 MolSim session of the Centre Européen de Calcul Atomique et Moléculaire (CECAM) in Amsterdam. CECAM is the oldest European institute for the promotion of fundamental research on advanced computational methods and their application to problems in frontier areas of science and technology. West credits her success as an up-andcoming scientist to her upbringing. “I think early on, probably when I was about 3 or 4 years old, I starting asking people about the stars and how they were able to stay in the sky,” she said. “So my parents and my grandparents started putting me in programs to see if I really had an interest in space and if I was mathematically inclined. My love for science blossomed from there.” West’s passion for science was further

strengthened by the success of the adults in her life. Her father is a civil engineer. Her mom is a child psychologist. Her granddad is an agricultural engineer. Her grandmother is an English professor. But like the women of “Hidden Figures,” West would have to overcome several obstacles in order for her talents to truly be appreciated. Those obstacles would cause her zeal for science to be shaken by an unexpected reminder of cultural indifference and the loss of a loved one. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Tennessee State University (TSU), West began her doctoral studies at an institution in the Midwest. Unfortunately, during her first semester there, she experienced an unpleasant culture shock: She never felt comfortable with or welcomed by her colleagues. “Being a third-generation TSU alumna, my family has a strong proud history of ‘Blackness,’ so I was well aware and proud of my heritage. However, my parents also taught me not to be inferior in spaces of any kind,” she said. “I have never considered myself to be a ‘Black woman scientist.’ I am simply a scientist. I know my capabilities and what I aspire to do, so I didn’t understand why others at my institution did not see that, but for a lot of them, they saw ‘Black woman,’ and because of that, I had something to prove before I was considered a ‘scientist.’” During this time, West also lost her mother. She returned home to assist her father and left the institution with an uncertainty that she had never felt before. “I had sort of lost my ‘juice’ at that point,” she said. “My confidence had been denigrated through hostile environments, and I no longer felt confident in my abilities as a student. I was defeated.” She took a four-year sabbatical from her studies, but then found love and renewed inspiration. “I met my husband during my time off. He really encouraged me to go back to school and finish my doctoral studies, and I’m so glad I did,” she said.

She enrolled at FAMU, due largely to the desire to work with Lewis Johnson, Ph.D., assistant dean of the College of Science and Technology and faculty researcher in the Center for Plasma Science and Technology. “Erica has a high level of maturity. She genuinely cares about sharing her love of science with younger students. She has been a joy to work with and I expect great things from her in the future,” Johnson said, reflecting on his time as a mentor to West. Thanks to support from professors like Johnson, West said she immediately noticed that the atmosphere at FAMU was remarkably different from other institutions. She had made the right decision. “I walked in and was accepted for my capabilities,” she said, recalling her first day in her FAMU lab. “I walked in and the staff said, ‘Oh, your lab is over there.’ It was unexpected and I kind of waited for a minute, and finally I thought, ‘Oh, I can just walk in by myself?’” While it was amusing at the time, West said the incident was a breath of fresh air. “That doesn’t happen in other spaces because in other environments they don’t automatically assume that you’re competent. It’s a constant struggle to prove yourself, despite the fact that you’ve been admitted to the program. Here it wasn’t like that. And I knew I was right – I indeed deserved to be here.” West is grateful for her FAMU experience and credits the University with helping her restore her confidence in her abilities. “I remember this moment of epiphany I had when I first arrived at CECAM. All of a sudden I thought, ‘I totally belong here. I should totally be here,’” she said. She now feels compelled to share her story with youth interested in science, especially little Black girls. “I’m learning that my story can help people,” she said. “I want people to understand that science is not just applied to a person because of what they look like – science is applied to someone because of what they do.”

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As the new director of the H. Manning Efferson Student Union and Activities at Florida A&M University, William Clemm has already hit the ground running. From the creation of “FAMUly Talks,� which invites alumni to share their inspirational stories fashioned after the popular TED Talks, to the launch of innovative student focus groups to assess campus organization needs, Clemm brings a refreshing combination of talent, skills, energy and passion that is taking campus life at FAMU to the next level. BY [Veronique GEORGE]


Less than one year after starting his position, Clemm launched the FANG Leadership Academy, a student organization designed to foster servant leadership and critical thinking, and to motivate future FAMU leaders to action. Fifty students were selected this spring to participate in the yearlong program that will kick off in fall 2017. In addition to focusing on the whole student, Clemm is known for his ability to liven up the campus. From poetry, movie nights and comedy shows to panel discussions and volunteer service projects, nearly every day of the week at FAMU is packed with enrichment, entertainment and excitement. Not to mention that he is committed to keeping FAMU traditions alive and works hard to enhance such events as Welcome Week and Set Friday. Before coming to FAMU, Clemm served as the assistant director of Event and Guest Services at the Adele H. Stamp Student Union at the University of Maryland College Park. After graduating from Morgan State University, he went on to become an assistant director in the Department of Student Life at Johns Hopkins University and returned to his alma mater as assistant director of operations.

A&M Magazine had the opportunity to interview Clemm and learn more about what motivates him. We also learned more about his passion for developing students and ensuring that they are successful throughout their time in college and are well prepared to emerge as leaders and influential alumni.

A&M: Why did you choose to come to FAMU? WC: Being the director of a student union at an HBCU was my ultimate career goal. It was the student union at Morgan State that helped me get through college, and I wanted to do the same thing – give back. I was very excited about becoming a Rattler and working with FAMU students to find ways to make campus life exciting and enriching. A&M: Where did your passion for HBCUs develop? WC: I am the product of an HBCU and I understand their

importance. I know that, historically, HBCUs have a powerful impact on how African Americans look at themselves and their future. And now, HBCUs have a powerful impact on other races and cultures. A&M: Is there a particular instance you remember as a college student that really impacted your decision to pursue a career in student affairs? WC: When I was a resident assistant I had to plan programs for my residents. When I realized how much my programs impacted students and made their time in college more enjoyable, I began to look at my resident director and other administrators on campus differently. They were more like role models and less like administrators. Their roles became clearer to me, and I became curious about possibly doing the same with my life. A&M: You have implemented several new professional development, educational, campus life, and studentunifying events. Why is this so important? WC: The role of the student union is to provide students with out-of-classroom social,

educational and recreational activities and services. As the director, my primary goal is to bring the best of these things to students at FAMU. Helping students to have a positive and impactful campus experience is my passion. I always make myself available as a mentor. A&M: How do student unions contribute to developing the whole student? And why are they so essential? WC: Student unions provide students with a place to develop and grow as individuals and in groups. It also provides students with opportunities to apply their academic training in real-life situations through student employment, event and program planning. A&M: There is a mantra that you use when working with students. Tell us more about that? WC: My mantra is “Life is a series of decisions.” You have to be willing to endure the consequences of your decisions. I share this with students to help them think more critically about the things they do.

balance. In today’s climate and educational landscape, why is this so important? WC: The academic side of college provides students with the intellectual tools they need. In Efferson Student Union and Activities, we provide students with the social and leadership skills needed to be well-rounded. Being intelligent is great, but if you cannot have a conversation and connect with people, no one cares how intelligent you are. A&M: Why are traditions like “Set Friday” and “Welcome Week” so important? WC: Traditions help to mold the campus culture. Campus cultures are what attract and retain students and make great memories for students. Great undergraduate memories make dedicated alumni. A&M: In addition to its events and programs, what do you think sets FAMU apart when it comes to the campus environment and student activities? WC: FAMU pride. I have never seen students have so much pride in their university.

A&M: It seems that you believe in providing students with a strong social and leadership

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Imani Johnson: A BORN LEADER

3rd-Year Student In high school, Florida A&M University student Imani Johnson began an innovative service project titled “First Steps for Premies.” Then 16 years old, she donated more than 100 gift baskets to community hospitals in Miami in the first three years of the project. She says her desire to help premature babies and their families was born while she was an intern at Jackson North Medical Center. “I spent most of my time helping in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where I learned a lot about the struggles that families experience while caring for a premature child,” said Johnson, who today is a third-year health informatics and information management student. According to Johnson, premature babies are more likely to suffer from health issues that require extended hospital stays. This can put families under a great deal of stress, she said. Her work and compassion have earned her one of the highest honors of the Girl Scouts organization: the Gold Award. This coveted award is reserved for the best and brightest women who have undertaken projects that improve their communities and the world. She said, however,

that the smiles of the parents she helps are her true reward for the work she does. “I knew this was something I had to continue when I witnessed a mother crying after receiving one of my baskets,” she said. “I was told she was overwhelmed because of my gift. Seeing how happy I made someone made it all worth it for me.” When Johnson became a Rattler three years ago, she seized it as an opportunity to expand her project – which has now been going strong for five years. She partnered with Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, recruited fellow students and got campus organizations such as SISTUHS, Inc. engaged. Her parents have even traveled to Tallahassee to help her assemble gift baskets. She leans on her personal and family resources and generous donations of time, talent and treasure by others to keep her efforts going. To date, the project has allowed her to provide 650 handmade gift baskets, filled with necessities such as baby bottles, baby wash, baby lotion, bibs, socks, onesies, blankets, Vaseline, Q-tips, diapers and a special bonus: a teddy bear. Johnson believes she couldn’t have been as successful in her


3.4 GPA Maintained 5-Year Service Project 501(k) Nonprofit Visionary 650 Handmade Gift Baskets Donated 10,000+ Smiles Generated efforts without the help of one special guy: her twin brother, Myles Johnson. A Rattler himself, the third-year student in criminal justice has run last-minute errands, delivered baskets, recruited support team members and more. “I am very proud of my sister,” said Myles. “She has done great things with this project. I want to see it grow bigger and bigger over the years.” In December 2016, Johnson launched another project titled “Bundles of Love.” Blankets and books were collected to promote the bond between mothers and their new additions. Johnson was able to donate a bag for each day of the month – 31 total – to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. She plans to continue this project in fall 2017. Johnson also continues to add to her long list of volunteer hours. Her activities include assisting with the University’s annual Grape Harvest Festival,

the ALARM Food Drive and the Florida Department of Education Health Fair. She also currently serves as Miss Health Informatics and Information Management at FAMU. Despite her busy schedule. Johnson has maintained a 3.4 GPA, and she serves FAMU and the surrounding community as a resident assistant, a FirstYear Experience peer mentor, a member of SISTUHS, Inc. and a lifetime Girl Scouts member. Still, her labor of love is not complete. “I want to encourage more students to help me with my project or even start their own project like I did,” she said. “I actually plan on creating a 501(k) nonprofit organization that gives back to the community, as well as mentor teenagers. I want to continue to come up with unique projects that relate to the needs of all age groups.”

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NCAA Academic Grant Pays Dividends for FAMU Athletics


Milton Overton Jr., Florida A&M University’s athletics director, has a formula for producing champions. “A first-class education combined with a great student-athlete experience helps mold champions,” he said when he arrived on campus in June 2015 to begin rebuilding FAMU’s Athletics program. Molding champions has implications far beyond the sports arena, as indicated in the new Athletics slogan: “Building Champions in the Classroom, on the Field and in Life.” Within months of taking the helm of FAMU’s storied athletics program on

the track, gridiron, diamond, court and field, Overton launched the “Investing in Champions” campaign. It’s focused on strengthening the financial aspects of the program, as well as on finding unique ways to enhance the academic outcomes and offerings for student-athletes. Thousands of FAMUans have bought into Overton’s vision and have invested financially by donating and increasing their attendance at athletic games throughout the year. About 89 percent of the annual fundraising goal of $600,000 has already been met. Overton will quickly tell you that in order


for FAMU Athletics to reach its full potential, it will take the support of the whole village. That village, he said, is anyone who believes that student-athletes deserve every chance possible to succeed. “We must collaborate to advance the mission of FAMU through athletics,” Overton said. Many people and organizations from around the country have answered Overton’s call, but among them is one organization that stands out from the crowd: the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).


There has never been a time that I’ve come to the Athletics department and have not received an answer to my question; they are there to help me every step of the way. - Quentez

Shortly after Overton’s arrival, the NCAA awarded FAMU a three-year grant of $675,000 through its Accelerating Academic Success Program (AASP) to support initiatives that bolster student success, graduation and retention for Rattler athletes. “The NCAA and the University have made a financial commitment to ensure Rattler student-athletes have the resources they need to be successful in the classroom. We are putting those resources to work,” Overton said. After two years of funding, FAMU Athletics is celebrating great gains in NCAA eligibility points because of innovative initiatives like the Enhanced Academic Support Staff/ Monitoring Program, the Rattler Summer Institute, StudentAthlete Advisory Committee (SAAC)/Life Skills and Ready to STRIKE. The Enhanced Academic Support Staff/Monitoring Program increases the overall care structure around studentathletes, including administrative leadership, tutors, assistance with certification and eligibility, and additional services for at-risk student-athletes. The Rattler Summer

Institute enhances the University’s Access Summer Bridge Program and provides weekly academic support programming for incoming first-year students and transfer student-athletes. SAAC/Life Skills focuses on training student-athletes through hands-on experiences in community engagement and leadership development. Ready to STRIKE is a fifth-year, exhausted-eligibility, degreecompletion initiative designed to assist student-athletes through financial and programmatic support. Each of these offerings has played a significant role in the Athletics Division’s NCAA eligibility point gains in such areas as progress toward degree, retention, graduation success rates, and single-year and multiyear scores toward the 930 benchmark for the Academic Progress Rate (APR), which measures eligibility and retention for Division I studentathletes. A shining example of the NCAA grant’s impact is the FAMU Rattler football team, which has earned a multiyear APR score of 918 after receiving a 2015-16 score of 940. As a result of the new services offered to studentathletes under the grant, FAMU

football players are now eligible for postseason play for the first time since the 2013-2014 academic year. Among the players who have been personally impacted by the NCAA grant is outside linebacker and health, leisure and fitness student Quentez Gallon. He was a freshman when the grant was first awarded to the University in 2015. Gallon has participated in two AASP initiatives. Through the Enhanced Academic Support Staff/Monitoring Program, he has received tutoring, peer-topeer support, and assistance with monitoring his academic progress throughout the year to ensure he remains eligible each academic year. According to Gallon, the advisement and wrap-around support he’s received have allowed him to remain disciplined in completing his coursework ahead of schedule, allowing him to stay on track despite missing classes while traveling for competition. “Our athletic advisers do a great job of holding us accountable,” said Gallon, who has been inspired to become a coach upon graduation as a result of a newfound passion for helping to support the next


generation of student-athletes. “There has never been a time that I’ve come to the Athletics department and have not received an answer to my question. They are there to help me every step of the way.” As a participant in the SAAC/ Life Skills initiative, Gallon has emerged as an active leader in the University’s community outreach activities. He was among a group of athletes who performed a dance to encourage youth at the 2017 Harambee Festival, a local effort to inspire unity in the community and instill cultural pride. Throughout the academic year, Gallon, who was an All-Star football MVP at Tallahassee’s Lincoln High School, also spent time reading to students at John G. Riley Elementary School, with a goal of inspiring a love for learning in area children. “I am successful in the classroom because of the life lessons we’re taught on how to be the professionals we want to become,” said Gallon. “These programs are preparing us for life after college athletics.”

To learn more about Investing in Champions, visit:

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Leaders in research [COMPILED BY A&M STAFF] As the National Science Foundation’s No. 1 historically Black university in the nation for total research and development expenditures, Florida A&M University has excelled in its mission to enhance the lives of constituents through innovative research, engaging cooperative extension and public service. In this edition of “Faces of FAMU,” we take a look at some of the University’s top principal investigators. In recent years, with the support of their co-investigators and colleagues, they have made a profound impact in some of the world’s most critical areas of need.

Robert Taylor, Ph.D. College of Agriculture and Food Sciences From agricultural and water quality research to vineyard management practices, Taylor – as dean of the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences and a principal investigator – and his team of researchers have amassed more than $4 million in grants over the last two academic years. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) National Institute of Food and Agriculture is among the top granting organizations that have provided Taylor and his team with funding to find solutions that will enhance the agricultural industry and increase the number of minorities entering the field. As a result of his influence in agriculture and food science, Taylor was selected to serve two terms on the USDA’s National Agricultural Research, Education, Extension and Economics Advisory Board, the only USDA board mandated by Congress to advise the secretary of agriculture. His research interests include soil and environmental chemistry, plant science, and soil and water pollution. Taylor is credited with developing a new soil chemical adsorption hypothesis and helping to develop a new nanopore chemical adsorption theory in minerals.


Michael Abazinge, Ph.D. School of the Environment

Karam F.A. Soliman, Ph.D. College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences As the associate dean for Research and Innovation and distinguished professor of basic pharmaceutical sciences at the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Soliman and his team have been awarded nearly $3.5 million in research dollars over the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 academic years. The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Minority Health Disparities is among the agencies that have entrusted Soliman (right) and his colleagues, including David Bauer, Ph.D. (left), with grants to help promote excellence in cancer research, training and community service. The research dollars also contribute to drug discovery and research aimed at better understanding the makeup and risks associated with various degenerative diseases and their treatment. Soliman’s work has garnered him numerous recognitions, including being named a “3M Distinguished Professor.” In 2000, Soliman received the honor of being named “FAMUan of the Century.”

As director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Environmental Cooperative Science Center, in the School of the Environment, Abazinge (back right) is helping to develop the next generation of environmental scientists. Thanks to the more than $3 million in grants he and his research team have received from NOAA since 2015, Abazinge is helping to provide solutions for the conservation and sustainable management of coastal and marine resources. Abazinge’s expertise and experience range from the interrelationships between soils, plants and animals to the metabolism of nutrients, particularly metals. His research focus has been in the bioconversion of cellulosic materials and evaluating the biochemical pathways to enhance their degradation.

Larry Robinson, Ph.D. School of the Environment Serving as the University’s interim president is beyond a full-time job, but for Robinson (center), it’s important to continue to contribute to FAMU’s research enterprise as well as work closely with student researchers. During the 2016-2017 academic year, Robinson and his research team received a more than $2.9 million installment of a five-year grant from NOAA’s Educational Partnership Program to establish the Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems. The new award will allow the FAMU-led partnership to make profound national impacts on coastal and marine ecosystems’ education, science and policy. Robinson’s research interests include environmental chemistry, environmental radiochemistry and environmental policy and management.

Maurice Edington, Ph.D. Strategic Planning, Analysis and Institutional Effectiveness

Edington (left) is responsible for ensuring University progress on key performance indicators with respect to academic, fiscal and operational goals. And a crucial component of fulfilling those goals is excellence in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) areas of the University. Edington is personally contributing to the University’s success in these fields with the help of his research team as a principal investigator on several National Science Foundation grants, which totaled more than $1.8 million during the 2016-2017 academic year. The grant dollars helped to support the “Student-Centered Active Learning and Assessment Reform” program. It has allowed FAMU to implement innovative curricular initiatives that are positioning the University as a national leader in STEM education. With expertise in chemistry, Edington not only has made strides in developing efficient dioxygen carriers for blood substitutes but also has used his scientific approach to help FAMU successfully navigate through quality enhancement and accreditation processes as the University’s accreditation liaison.4

Shawn Spencer, Ph.D. College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences For Spencer, the word “CREATE” is more than a transitive verb. It is also the acronym for the innovative research project he and his team are working on in the College of Pharmacy – the Center for Research Education and Training Excellence. In the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 academic years, Spencer served as the principal investigator for projects totaling more than $1 million. As a component of a grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences, CREATE focuses on improving the quality, depth and breadth of research training for underrepresented groups. A former professor and researcher at the National Cancer Institute, Spencer specializes in implementing, measuring and monitoring quality procedures, as well as improving curricular, assessment and strategic planning activities within academic programs.

Tarik Dickens, Ph.D. FAMU-FSU College of Engineering What will 21st-century manufacturing look like? Dickens’ work in the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering offers a glimpse. During the 2016-2017 academic year, Dickens (center), principal investigator, and his team members received more than $950,000 from the National Science Foundation for its Historically Black Colleges and Universities Research Infrastructure for Science and Engineering (HBCU-RISE) award to develop research in advanced manufacturing utilizing biomimetic robotics. Their research involves high-performance additive manufacturing of composite structures via reconfigurable cyberphysical robotic systems. Dickens has three U.S. patent applications (awarded and pending) in the areas of advanced multifunctional composites, sensory-scaled composite manufacturing and ubiquitous real-time structural health monitoring. A professor in the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at the College of Engineering and High-Performance Materials Institute, Dickens also runs the Industrial Composite Engineering lab, involving sensing techniques and the nondestructive testing of advanced materials.

Okenwa Okoli, Ph.D. FAMU-FSU College of Engineering Okoli is helping to place deep-space exploration within reach for FAMU, with the aid of his colleagues, as the principal investigator of a master agreement that enables students and faculty to work on NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Program and other Lockheed Martin space exploration projects. During the 2016-2017 academic year, Okoli and his team garnered the first $1 million of a five-year installment from Lockheed Martin Corp. to help support the effort. Okoli serves as the U.S. Department of Energy Samuel P. Massie Chair of Excellence in the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and is chair of the Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering Department and the associate director of the High-Performance Materials Institute. Okoli’s research impact ranges from the enhancement of safety in critical structures to the development of 3-D photovoltaic devices for energy harvesting and transport.

Eun-Sook Lee, Ph.D. College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

Lewis Johnson, Ph.D. College of Science and Technology In the 2015-2016 academic year, principal investigator Johnson and his team, including Interim Title III Executive Director Charles A. Weatherford, Ph.D., garnered nearly $920,000 in grant dollars from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Agency. The grant dollars support the project called The Consortium for Research on the Science and Engineering of Signatures. Also known as ROSES, its research efforts include the investigation, characterization and improvement of novel energy materials in science and engineering. The grant dollars also serve to support the development of solutions to improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that have emerged in Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations throughout the world, as an unanticipated and deadly threat to U.S. and Allied military forces. Lewis is the chief scientist in FAMU’s Center for Plasma Science and Technology. His research expertise includes laser plasma physics, laser -induced breakdown spectroscopy with nanosecond and femtosecond sources, ultrafast atmospheric pulse propagation, remote sensing science and technology for rapid detection of materials of interest.

Lee has served in several research capacities in FAMU’s STEM programs. With a background in pharmacology, toxicology and physiology, she has served as a postdoctoral fellow, adjunct professor of organic chemistry, research assistant in the College of Pharmacy and research associate in the University’s Neuroscience Laboratory. She is an “R01”scientist, which means she is a past recipient of one of the highest grant levels by the National Institutes of Health. Her experience helped her and colleagues to generate more than $810,000 in grant dollars from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences during the 2016-2017 academic year. As the principal investigator, Lee is focusing on novel therapeutic strategies for neurodegenerative diseases associated with impairment in glutamate transporter-1 (GLT-1) function and excitotoxicity. The long-term goal of the research is to understand the mechanisms involved in the regulation of GLT-1 expression in relation to excitotoxic neurodegeneration, such as in Parkinson’s disease.

*Compiled from 2015-2017 data provided by the FAMU Division of Research. A&M MAGAZINE // SUMMER 2017 // 53

Campus Notes FAMU Recognized for Online Learning Excellence

FAMU Partners with Tallahassee Mayor and Domi Station to Launch Coding Academy This spring, FAMU, Domi Station and the office of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a FAMU alumnus, launched I/O Avenue, a Tallahassee-based coding academy. The program was created as a component of a larger Tallahassee TechHire Initiative and focuses on rapidly training workers to enter high-paying tech jobs in North Florida. I/O Avenue will begin taking students in the fall and will be operated in the computer labs of FAMU’s Workforce Computing Center. The innovative coding education program will provide training in highly sought-after software languages and development processes that complement existing FAMU curriculum and workforce programs.

54 // FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE, a leader in higher education information, resources and rankings, has recognized FAMU three times for its excellence in online learning. FAMU was ranked among the nation’s top 15 Best Online Master’s in Public Health Degrees, top 30 Best Online Public Health Degrees and top 40 Best Online Master’s in Nursing Degrees. The factors used to identify the Best Online Colleges of 2017 included regional accreditation, in-state tuition and fees, percentage of full-time undergraduate students receiving institutional financial aid, number of online programs offered and student-to-teacher ratio.

NSA and Homeland Security Designate FAMU as National Center of Academic Excellence The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security have designated FAMU as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education through 2022. The designation was awarded in March after the University met rigorous requirements and demonstrated its ability to serve the country’s need to defend cyberspace by preparing a skilled workforce via its academic offerings. FAMU will receive its designation this summer at the National Cyber Security Summit in Huntsville, Alabama, and joins a list of designees such as Purdue University, Johns Hopkins University, Princeton University and Dartmouth College.

FAMU Choral Students Perform at Carnegie Hall Three FAMU Concert Choir students were selected to showcase their talents as members of the honors choir during the 2017 Young Adult Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Their February performance marked a significant milestone as they were chosen from a pool of students from across 45 states in the U.S. and two provinces in Canada. Maiya Stevenson, Akeisha Mandela and Kyrik Gaines performed before thousands on the worldrenowned Ronald O. Perelman Stage. The Young Adult Honors Series at Carnegie Hall assembles some of the most talented college-age and young adult vocalists in the world to experience the thrill of working with master conductors and performing in one of the most prominent concert halls.


Maiya Stevenson, Akeisha Mandela and Kyrik Gaines

FAMU is Peace Corps’ No. 3 Volunteer-Producing HBCU In March, the Peace Corps announced that FAMU ranked No. 3 on the 2017 list of top volunteer-producing historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). This is the second consecutive year that FAMU has placed among the top five HBCUs in the nation. Currently, seven Rattlers are volunteering around the world in Ukraine, Ethiopia, Morocco, Benin, Zambia and Rwanda. Since the Peace Corps’ founding in 1961, 83 FAMU alumni have traveled abroad to serve as volunteers.

FAMU Students Win $20,000 Grant at Honda Brain Bowl

INTENSE COMPETITION Retired FAMU Professor Vivian Hobbs, Ph.D., has coached the FAMU All-Star team successfully for more than two decades.

Florida A&M University, the 2016 champion and eight-time national champion, went head-to-head with fellow HBCUs at the 28th annual Honda Campus All-Star Challenge National Championship Tournament in April. After 20 rounds of intense competition, FAMU placed third in the tournament, earning $20,000 for the University. Teams from 48 HBCUs competed in the final round of this unique display of academic prowess. FAMU was represented by Travian Albert, a junior majoring in political science and psychology from Milton, Florida; Darryl Williams, a junior majoring in political science from Riverview, Florida; Aubrey Upshur III, a junior majoring in public relations from Philadelphia; and Bryan Anderson, a sophomore majoring in industrial engineering.

A&M MAGAZINE // SUMMER 2017 // 55

Fall 2016 - Spring 2017

In October 2016, Kathy Y. Times was named the new executive associate director of the FAMU Office of Communications. Times was the president and CEO of Yellow Brick Media Concepts, a public relations firm. Prior to starting her company, she was an Emmy Award-winning journalist. From 2009 to 2011, Times served as president of the National Association of Black Journalists.

Barbara Cohen-Pippin, whose career includes key positions in higher education and legislative affairs in Florida, was named the new governmental relations director at FAMU in December 2016. Cohen-Pippin succeeds Tola Thompson, who became chief of staff for incoming U.S. Rep. Al Lawson in Washington, D.C.

In December 2016, Wanda Ford, D.M., was named interim vice president for Finance and Administration and chief financial officer. Since 2013, Ford has served as executive director of FAMU’s Title III programs, which serve low-income students through federal dollars.

Also in December 2016, Charles Weatherford, Ph.D., associate vice president for Research, was appointed interim executive director of Title III programs to fill Ford’s role. A professor of physics, Weatherford has also provided leadership for the National Science Foundation Center of Research Excellence in Science and Technology at FAMU and the FAMU Center for Plasma Science and Technology.


Interim President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., and the Senior Leadership Team made several key appointments during the 2016-2017 academic year.

Ronald Henry Jr., was appointed associate vice president for Information Technology Services in January 2017. He continues to serve as director of ITS Services and Telecommunications. Henry joined the University staff in 2000 as a systems administrator working closely with the University’s server infrastructure.

Henry Talley V, Ph.D., was named the new dean of the School of Nursing in January 2017. Talley succeeds retiring Dean Ruena Norman, Ph.D. A retired lieutenant colonel in the United States Army Reserve Nurse Corps, he previously served as the founding director of the Michigan State University Nurse Anesthesia Program.

In February 2017, the founding dean of the FAMU College of Science and Technology, Maurice Edington, Ph.D., was appointed vice president for Strategic Planning, Analysis and Institutional Effectiveness. The newly formed office will collaborate with senior leadership to monitor and improve progress on key performance indicators with respect to academic, fiscal and operational goals.

Also in February 2017, Jennifer Wilder, Ed.D., was named the new director of University Housing following the retirement of long-time employee Oscar Crumity. Wilder has more than 30 years of experience in student affairs leadership and previously served as the director of Residence Life at Fayetteville State University and director of Residential Life at North Carolina Central University.

In April 2017, Shereada Harrell was named the new director of the C.C. Cunningham Career Center. Harrell came to FAMU with a wealth of experience in career services. Most recently, she served as the associate director of Employee Relations at the University of Texas at Dallas Career Center, where she directed employer recruitment services and employer outreach.

A&M MAGAZINE // SUMMER 2017 // 57

From the Bookshelf Florida A&M University is widely known for its legacy of empowering and enhancing lives. In this edition of From the Bookshelf, we celebrate a few Rattler authors whose recent publications are helping to uplift others and inspiring them to reach their full potential. “Live Limitless” By Sierra L. Rainge


Sierra L. Rainge wears many hats. She is a youth mentor, life coach, motivational speaker, vision activator, entrepreneur, mother, wife and now best-selling author. Her book “Live Limitless: 9 Keys to Unlock Potential, Purpose & Personal Power” is inspiring thousands of readers around the world to recognize resistance, overcome opposition and ultimately uncover life’s purpose. “Live Limitless” takes readers on a journey that encourages them to discover their natural talents, potential and goals. The pages are filled with words that reflect Rainge’s passion for empowering others to pursue their goals and awaken their God-given talents. According to the Orlando native, attending FAMU allowed her to discover her own talents and purpose, and obtain strength from her struggles as a youth. She realized that everything she experienced prepared her to be an example of the limitless possibilities that are available regardless of where you come from or what you’ve been through in life. Rainge lives by her mantra: “We are enlightened when we recognize innate gifts and talents, but we are empowered when we utilize them.” Rainge’s literary works have been featured in national publications such as Black Enterprise, Huffington Post and the Phoenix Business Journal. “Live Limitless” is available at 5SIERRA L. RAINGE

“As Sure as Tomorrow Comes” By Danielle and Christopher Jones

In just a few years of marriage, a couple can go through a range of trials, tribulations and triumphs. “As Sure as Tomorrow Comes” illustrates the power of faith and commitment through the lives of Danielle and Chris Jones as they face obstacle after obstacle – from unemployment and multiple sclerosis diagnoses to the death of their 10-day-old son. Danielle Jones is a graduate of the FAMU School of Journalism & Graphic Communication. And while her husband, Chris Jones, is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati, he shares her passion for FAMU and the opportunities it provides for its graduates to live out their dreams. “As Sure as Tomorrow Comes” represents the courage that Danielle found as a Rattler to face difficulty with persistence and a positive outlook. Through their focus on uplifting and motivating others, the book profoundly touches on how to navigate marriage, family crisis and spirituality with a touch of humor. “As Sure as Tomorrow Comes” is available at 58 // FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE


BY [Pernell MITCHELL] The crowns of Mister and Miss Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University signify a proud lineage of HBCU royalty. But beyond laurels and legacies, Randall L. Griffin and Amberly R. Williams, FAMU’s 17th and 110th Mister and Miss Florida A&M University, have added to the crown bearers’ tradition of service. They’ve left a unique imprint on the FAMU community both locally, where they were involved in numerous student engagement activities, and nationally, where they added a community-service component to the University’s recruitment efforts. “In just about every city we visited, we wanted to do some type of community service,” said Griffin. “We wanted to leave the impact of our

A Reign of Service and Selflessness

University everywhere we went.” Among their most visible service initiatives was an event during the 2017 Florida Blue Florida Classic in Orlando. They partnered with Mister and Miss Bethune-Cookman University to launch a first-ofits-kind dual service project. The two groups, accompanied by student government leaders from both institutions, held a Day of Service at the Orlando Area Boys and Girls Club to assist with homework, provide motivational support and teach the value of an HBCU education. In fact, the pair made it their priority to strengthen FAMU’s presence in high schools in Tallahassee and surrounding areas. They wanted to make students aware that FAMU is

the place that can help them realize their dreams. “We took this initiative pretty seriously. We didn’t want to just smile and wave,” Williams said. “There are people in the community who have so much potential, they just need a spark to bring it out.” Griffin, a spring 2017 business administration graduate from Atlanta, and his royal escorts focused on empowering young men, and visited schools to mentor them. “I wanted to set an example of what it means to be a true gentleman,” he said. Williams, a biology/predentistry senior from Midway, Florida, also took members of her court to local schools to mentor young girls. Her efforts did not go unnoticed. EBONY Magazine

named her among the nation’s “Top 10” campus queens. “The essence of a queen is measured not by how she wears her crown, but by her voice, her actions and the impact she leaves on the community she serves,” said Williams, in an EBONY article. During the year, the duo also spent time spreading cheer to patients at the Heritage Healthcare Center in Tallahassee and participated in breast cancer awareness campaigns. Their efforts to focus on FAMU’s mission to empower citizens and communities illustrate what it really means to lead. “Service – that’s the true essence of being an ambassador of FAMU,” Griffin said.

BY [Brian LUCAS, DM]

Retired Maj. Gen. Eugene R. Cromartie leaves a legacy of professional excellence for FAMU and our nation to cherish. After earning a bachelor’s degree in social science and a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army at FAMU, Cromartie went on to serve his country, fellow soldiers and alma mater with distinction. As a FAMU student in 1956, the Wabasso, Florida, native became the first African American in the Army ROTC to finish as the top cadet in the rigorous Advanced Camp training and officer evaluation process. In a career spanning decades of service, Cromartie served in a variety of assignments of leadership and increased responsibility, including as a battalion commander in Vietnam and as commander of U.S. Military Law Enforcement activities in Europe. He went on to become commander of the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, where he was known as the Army’s “Top Cop.” Cromartie passed in February 2017.


Since its inception, Florida A&M University has produced thousands of alumni who have made profound impacts in their communities, across the nation and around the world. U.S. Army Retired Maj. Gen. Eugene Cromartie and former Rattler Head Baseball Coach Robert Lucas are among the many FAMUans who have helped to advance FAMU’s mission. In this issue, we highlight their influence, as well as honor the lives of the many sons and daughters of FAMU who have completed their life’s journey.

Former FAMU baseball coach Robert Lucas was a beloved leader within the Rattler family. As a student-athlete, he was a member of coach Costa Kittles’ baseball team. After graduating from FAMU, the Jacksonville native began his career as an elementary school teacher in Monticello, Florida. After earning a master’s degree in adult education at FAMU, Lucas relocated to Atlanta and served as an employee of Eastern Airlines. In 1986, he returned to his alma mater to begin his first stint as head coach of Rattler baseball until 1990. Lucas was a professional scout for the Atlanta Braves from 1990 until 2006, before returning to FAMU in 2007 to serve once again as head baseball coach until his retirement in 2010. Under his leadership, the baseball program clinched Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championships and produced several players who were recruited to play Major League Baseball. Throughout his retirement, Lucas continued developing young players by offering individual coaching sessions and coaching camps. Lucas passed in February 2017.

A&M MAGAZINE // SUMMER 2017 // 61

Keith Brown, November 2016 Brown served as an elementary school teacher at several South Florida schools, including Westwood Heights Elementary, North Fork Elementary, Martin Luther King Elementary and Flamingo Elementary. At FAMU, he was a trombone player in the Marching “100” and earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Nancy V. Standley-Burt, February 2017 Standley-Burt was an employee at FAMU for more than 30 years until her retirement in 2001. During her career, she served as a certified school psychologist, counselor and teacher. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University, a master’s degree from MacMurray College and a doctorate from Florida State University. Sheryl W. Hudson, March 2017 Hudson retired from FAMU’s Inspector General’s Office. She earned a bachelor’s degree in public administration and a master’s degree in education from FAMU. Jashari Holloway, March 2017 Holloway earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from FAMU. She was active in several student organizations, including Active Minds, the NAACP and the National Honor Society. She also was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Jerelean D. Thornton, April 2017 Thornton served as an elementary school teacher. She earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood/elementary education from FAMU and a master’s degree in education from Cambridge College in Boston. Vestella P. Anderson, April 2017 Anderson served as a teacher at FAMU Developmental Research School for 27 years and was selected as “Teacher of the Year” in 1989. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Fort Valley State University and a master’s degree in education from FAMU. Willie Pearl Porter, April 2017 Porter was a centenarian and retired educator who served as a nursing instructor at FAMU. Bessyee G. Washington, April 2017 Washington was a retired FAMU librarian. She was a member of The Links Inc., and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.



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Profile for FAMU Communications

Summer 2017 A&M Magazine  

Welcome to the summer edition of the award-winning A&M Magazine. This issue highlights alumni, students, faculty, staff, programs and partne...

Summer 2017 A&M Magazine  

Welcome to the summer edition of the award-winning A&M Magazine. This issue highlights alumni, students, faculty, staff, programs and partne...