Raised by a widowed mother facing health issues, Shirley Dilsworth moved from New Jersey to Baltimore as a young girl. As she was about to graduate from Western High School, she was invited to apply to Johns Hopkins and was admitted. It was the fall of 1970, the first year that Johns Hopkins began accepting female undergraduates, and among the 90 admitted were five black women: Dilsworth, two fellow freshmen, Karen Freeman Burdnell and Gail Williams, and two transfer students, Lynn Parker and Barbara Wyche.
A focused student, Dilsworth lived at home and worked part time at the Enoch Pratt Free Library throughout her college years. She remembered a sixth-grade teacher telling her that she could not achieve her dream of becoming a lawyer. Instead of discouraging her, such comments fueled her determination to succeed.
Following her graduation from Johns Hopkins, Dilsworth earned two law degrees and worked for many prestigious companies. She is currently the divisional vice president of human resources for Nordstrom’s Credit Division and Corporate Center and an active community leader.
Conservator of books and the black community
When author Alex Haley came to Maryland to unveil a memorial to his legendary ancestor Kunta Kinte, many fans sought his autograph. Martha Edgerton was probably the only one who had him sign a copy of his masterwork, “Roots,” that she had personally rebound.
The theme of conserving treasures permeates Edgerton’s life and professional career. After completing a five-year apprenticeship at the John Hopkins Milton S. Eisenhower Library, she became the program’s first graduate in 1980. That same year, Edgerton represented the American Research Libraries Group in England at the first international conference on preservation/ conservation. She continued her professional growth as a member of local and national preservation organizations and through an internship in the rare books section of the Library of Congress.
For more than 30 years, Edgerton worked as an integral member of the Eisenhower Library staff, as a book and paper conservator and as a teacher and organizer in several consultancy, internship and workshop programs supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. While working at the library, she conserved many materials of great value including a very rare four-volume set of Audubon’s “Birds of America” and a 16th century “Luther Bible” and she took a leadership role in developing and participating in the library’ exhibits program.
Edgerton’s interests extended beyond the library to a different type of conservation, that of uniting and addressing the needs of the black community at Johns Hopkins. “As an attendee of the very first public meeting for the formation of the Black Faculty and Staff Association, I was in full agreement with its mission and became actively involved,” said Edgerton. She became an executive board member and was elected the organization’s president in 2005. During her presidency, she helped strengthen the organization’s funding from Johns Hopkins, enhanced its programming by bringing in notable presenters such as civil rights activist Myrlie Evers-Williams, continued efforts to persuade the university to add an African studies curriculum and encouraged other Johns Hopkins campuses to participate in the BFSA.
Edgerton left Johns Hopkins in 2008 to manage the Preservation Unit of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. She volunteers at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Benjamin Banneker Museum. She teaches workshops related to book and paper preservation/ conservation, bookbinding, and BookArt-this last her personal passion.
A Brilliant Mind
Ralph Etienne-Cummings developed his passion for math and science as a young boy growing up in his native Seychelles, an archipelago of islands northeast of Africa, and in England where he lived for long periods of his youth with his grandmother. The product of teenage parents, including a mother who stressed education, Etienne-Cummings turned out to be a bright child with a knack for fixing things and figuring out problems. In the U.K., he attended a strict Benedictine school where he rose to be one of the top students in his class and excelled as an athlete.
The year before he graduated from high school, Etienne-Cummings moved with his family to New Orleans where he continued on a path that would eventually lead him to Johns Hopkins University. Here, he is a professor of electrical and computer engineering in the Whiting School of Engineering – one of only a few black faculty in the school. Etienne-Cummings landed at Hopkins by way of Lincoln University near Philadelphia where he majored in physics and took an interest in electronics. He went on to the University of Pennsylvania where he earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering.
While in undergraduate school, Etienne-Cummings started thinking about research as a career. His focus would be where biology and electronics meet. One area where Etienne-Cummings has made a name for himself at JHU and among engineers, and federal funding agencies, is with his years-long quest to develop a spinal implant that will help people paralyzed from the waist down regain movement and sensation. His research interests also include systems and algorithms for biologically inspired and low-power processing, biomorphic robots, applied neuroscience, neural prosthetics, and computer integrated surgical systems and technologies. He holds seven patents and has mentored over thirty-five students at the graduate level.
At Hopkins, Etienne-Cummings has sponsored a number of diversity and mentoring programs, including serving as co-chair of the Diversity Committee, and as a mentor of the Whiting School’s Robotics Club. Etienne-Cummings has also served as a consulting engineer for several technology firms, including Nova Sensors, Inc., and Panasonic N. American & Corporation.
Aside from his science, Etienne-Cummings feels strongly about bringing more people of color, particularly African Americans, into the engineering fold. He is also among those at Johns Hopkins who have been asked by university leadership to help recruit black faculty to JHU, and to the Whiting School. “It’s super important,” he said. “In engineering and the university in general we have to do better. Having a diverse faculty matters. You have to have role models. Otherwise, how do you convince yourself that you are good enough to be in places like a Hopkins or a Stanford?”
Champion of Change—Black Faculty and Staff Association Founder
The Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA) came together, as so many advocacy groups do, over lunch and a conversation. Lunch was at the Polo Grill, then a restaurant across from Homewood Field, and the people who had gathered to talk were black senior staff members concerned about the lack of support for people of color at Johns Hopkins.
Toni Moore-Duggan, one of the participants, recalled how that lunch and subsequent discussions among the staff members led to their decision in 1995 to establish the BFSA.
“After graduating from Johns Hopkins and while working there, it became evident that there was no voice or forum for black people having difficulties here,” said Moore-Duggan, a certified nurse practitioner who worked at the institution for
At first, Moore-Duggan said, she and the other staff members were not sure if anyone would buy into efforts to create a forum for people of color, but they did. Seventeen years later, the group is not only going strong but has expanded its mission: to help foster a culture of collaboration by promoting and enhancing the identity and professional welfare and growth of faculty, staff and students through collaborations, community service, education, research and cultural activities. The BFSA has also charged itself with being a crucial resource for the continued success of Johns Hopkins through the development and cultivation of relationships with key leaders of the institution.
Michael Freeman, a former senior academic adviser at Johns Hopkins University, now serves as vice president for student affairs at Tennessee State University. In 2010, he participated in the Harvard University Graduate School of Education’s Institutional Educational Management Program. He earned a doctorate from the University of Maryland, College Park.
In becoming one of the first two black people to earn a medical degree from Johns Hopkins, in 1967, Robert Gamble was fulfilling what he saw as a family legacy. He grew up hearing the story of how his grandfather, Henry Floyd Gamble, graduated with a medical degree from Yale University in 1891, paying his way through school by working as a waiter and janitor.
Before entering Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Gamble had earned a bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, from Howard University in 1963 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
Gamble, whose only brother also became a physician, worked in New York as a neurosurgeon.
Globe-trotting nursing innovator, researcher and educator
Medical professionals ask patients how they feel, where it hurts and how much, and patients struggle to answer the questions. But the Painometer, a pain assessment tool developed by Fannie Gaston-Johansson, helps patients better describe their pain to medical professionals and therefore receive better care.
A commitment to improving pain and symptom management and eliminating health disparities forms the foundation for Gaston-Johansson’s career at Johns Hopkins University. Named the Elsie M. Lawler Professor in 1993, she was the first black woman to become a full professor at Johns Hopkins. In 2007, she was appointed the first chair of the School of Nursing’s Acute and Chronic Care Department. Gaston-Johansson directs the Center on Health Disparities Research, leads the international and interdisciplinary Minority Global Health Disparities Research Training Program and is co-director of a postdoctoral training program in breast cancer research for underserved and minority women.
An opportunity to study in Sweden in the late 1960s served as the catalyst for a parallel career in that country. After a variety of nursing and faculty positions there, Gaston-Johansson served from 2001 to 2005 as the first female dean of Gothenburg University, the largest university in Scandinavia. A year before she became dean, she had inaugurated the university’s doctoral program in nursing. In recognition of her achievements, in 2005 she became the first nurse elected to the Royal Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, a Swedish organization established in 1753. Gothenburg University held a two-day tribute honoring Gaston-Johansson in 2006, which included a symposium and the presentation to her of “The Apple of Knowledge.”
Visionary Engineer and Creative Futurist
He has been described as a jack of all trades and a master of some. Glenn characterizes himself as a creator, a technologist, a futurist and a visionary. In fact, he is all of this thanks in no small part to his accomplished career – a career guided by his education at the Johns Hopkins University. Glenn, now a tenured professor and dean of the College of Engineering at Alabama A&M, received his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins. He earned his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland College Park. He also studied management development, earning a certificate, at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
With his paper in hand, Glenn began his career at the Army Research Laboratory in Maryland where he designed microwave and radio frequency devices for a range of defense-related applications. At the lab, he also became involved in signal processing and the study of non-linear dynamical systems. He left the lab to co-start an engineering company. In 2003, Glenn joined the faculty at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he was a tenured professor. Five years later, he was named associate dean of graduate studies at RIT. Throughout his academic and professional career, Glenn, who is well-published and has given talks nationally and internationally, has several patents to his name.
In 2012, Glenn was named dean of Alabama A&M’s College of Engineering, Technology and Physical Sciences, where he continues to position the university through its plan to prepare students and researchers to meet the global needs of the 21st century. In his role as dean, Glenn works with faculty to develop new programs in engineering and applied science and he leads the university’s efforts to collaborate with industry and other institutions of higher learning around the world to grow research in materials science, image and signal processing, alternative energy and other areas of global significance. But Glenn isn’t all work and no play. In addition to his academic and professional accomplishments, Glenn is a singer and songwriter who has both written and recorded songs. One of his songs was nominated for a Grammy award.
In Guinea, the country of his birth, Siba Grovogui excelled academically and became a judge while still in his 20s. But he soon discovered that the political structure in Guinea placed great constraints on judges and hindered justice. In moving to America and becoming an international relations and political theory professor, Grovogui found a more effective way to write and talk about justice. “I want to change how we think of ourselves as humans,” he has said. “We have to know our world. Social sciences really have to be about us in the world. Not what we in America can get from the world.”
In the process, Grovogui is helping to change the way Johns Hopkins teaches international relations. Through his commitment to the Institute for Global Studies, doctoral students have greater opportunities to do field work and to learn from diverse experts in various fields.
Catalyst for campus change—Black Student Union Pioneer
Empowered and inspired by the civil rights movement, students John F. Guess and Bruce Baker presented 12 demands to Johns Hopkins University administration in 1967. They sought such changes as increased black student enrollment and black faculty recruitment, a library section for black authors, and Johns Hopkins-Morgan State mixers.
A year later, Guess, Baker and others established a Black Student Union at Johns Hopkins. Although similar groups had already formed at other university campuses, students at Johns Hopkins found their initial requests for official recognition rebuffed. The student council expressed concern that this student union would be seen as hostile and divisive. Continued and mounting pressure from Guess and Baker caused the student council to reconsider its decision and grant official status in 1969.
The Black Student Union remains an influential group at Johns Hopkins, promoting diversity, respect, and understanding. The group also hosts events and lectures, organizes community service projects and works to improve the climate for black students at Johns Hopkins.
Its founders continue to serve as prominent community leaders.
Guess, a native of Houston, became the first BSU chairman and the first black president of the university’s student council. He is chief executive officer of the Houston Museum of African American Culture, managing consultant at The Guess Group Inc., a real estate services company and a Partner in the Dallas-based Access Seminars and Consulting Services. He is an active art collector whose works have been shown in museums across the country and in Europe.
For most of his career with Johns Hopkins, Joseph S. “Jakie” Hall was a convener, building and maintaining bridges between university leaders, students, the community and faculty, as well as people in the U.S. government and in other nations.
Hall came to Johns Hopkins in 1973 as dean of students, and, with the simple act of accepting this appointment, he became the first black dean on the Homewood campus. Five years later, Hall was appointed dean of academic services and in 1982 became senior assistant to the president.
In 1986, Hall took on his last position with Johns Hopkins as its vice president for institutional relations. One of his first major projects was to lead a Human Climate Task Force, charged with addressing such issues such as the status of women, academic dishonesty and faculty-student relations. Dr. Steven Muller, then university president, charged the task force with finding a way to deal with these sensitive issues in a spirit of respect, civility and cooperation. The task force presented its findings to Muller in 1987.
In his five years as vice president, Hall continued to address the issues explored by the task force and to promote minority faculty and student recruitment; coordinate the university’s response to student protests over its investments in companies doing business in South Africa; serve as liaison to the International Fellows Program of the Institute for Policy Studies; and manage university projects with the Baltimore City Public School System, such as the Johns Hopkins-Dunbar High School project.
Ambassador in the President’s Office
On her first day at work in the cafeteria at Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood campus, Minnie Hargrow looked around to see three buildings, male students wearing suits, and a student body and faculty that were all white. The year was 1946, and Hargrow and her husband had just moved to Baltimore following his return from service in World War II.
For 34 years, Hargrow-who quickly became known to all as “Miss Minnie” continued to work in the cafeteria providing physical and emotional nourishment to the university community, as she witnessed that community becoming larger and more diverse. At the same time, her desire to work in the President’s Office grew stronger.
In 1981, Hargrow was offered and accepted the position of assistant to the president, a position she kept until her retirement in 2007. Her constant smile and warmth permeated the office, yielding strong positive first impressions for countless visitors.
Architect of social justice in medicine
As a physician, mentor, professor and dean, M. Alfred Haynes, now retired, dedicated his career to reducing health disparities and improving health care systems in the U.S. and around the world. After joining the International Health Department at Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health in 1964, he went to India on an assignment in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development. Tasked with improving the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine at the Medical College in Trivandrum, Kerala, Haynes created a system to place medical interns in rural primary health units for more meaningful field experiences. He also conducted research on background radiation and family planning services. Returning to Johns Hopkins in 1966, Haynes applied his lessons learned to create a program for teachers of community medicine and to develop a comprehensive health planning program. International students used principles learned in these programs to enhance health care around the world. In addition, Haynes published studies regarding opportunities for black health care professionals and contributed to the “Hunger USA” study. His research into racial health disparities led to the creation of the National Medical Association Foundation whose mission is to address the health needs of inner city residents. Haynes was the foundation’s first director. Haynes declined to become a full professor at Johns Hopkins so that he could accept the challenge of helping to establish the Charles Drew Postgraduate Medical School in the Watts area of Los Angeles in 1969. He ultimately became the dean and president of that school.
Gertrude J. “Trudy”
Trudy Hodges had no doubts that she should become a nurse. She knew this even as a 4- year-old. But she didn’t know exactly how she would accomplish this goal.
When she overheard someone discussing Johns Hopkins, she wrote to ask if black nursing students would be considered. The admissions office encouraged her to apply.
Throughout her years of study at Johns Hopkins, Hodges remained the only black nursing student. A special counselor was assigned to provide additional support for her. She did not socialize much with the other students and did encounter racism, but having grown up in a rural town in upstate New York, she was accustomed to being in the minority.
After graduation in 1959, Hodges became a head nurse at Johns Hopkins and, after returning to New York to earn a master’s degree, she also taught at Johns Hopkins and at the St. Agnes School of Nursing. Eventually Hodges joined the faculty of the Community College of Baltimore (now Baltimore City Community College), where she taught for 30 years. She often helped students who, like her, had dreamed of becoming nurses to achieve that goal and pursue graduate degrees.
Since retiring, Hodges has contributed to two projects that are building greater trust and collaboration between Johns Hopkins and the neighboring communities. She is an active advisory board member for Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School and serves on the advisory committee for the East Baltimore Development Inc.
Force of art
Leslie King-Hammond, graduate dean emerita of Maryland Institute College of Art, stands at the center of the arts community in Baltimore and is a powerful force far beyond this city. She is chair of the board of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture and a board member of the Creative Alliance. She has served as project director for the Ford/Phillip Morris Fellowships for Artists of Color, an executive board member for the International Association of Art Critics, president of the College Art Association, a trustee of the Baltimore School for the Arts, and a trustee of the Baltimore Museum of Art. She has contributed to major exhibitions and publications for Studio Museum in Harlem, the Met Life Gallery and Columbus Museum of Art.
King-Hammond arrived in Baltimore from New York in 1969. A Horizon Fellow, she earned both her master’s and doctoral degrees from Johns Hopkins University. In 1976, she was appointed dean of graduate studies at MICA. After retirement in 2008, she was named founding director of the Center for Race and Culture at MICA, and she continues to teach art history at the school.
Superlative scholar of Latin America
When Franklin W. Knight joined the Johns Hopkins history faculty in 1973, he discovered “an intimate community” on the Homewood campus he enjoyed. “People were very serious about the work they did. It was extremely collegial. The intellectual pursuit was up front, mainstream, and focused.” He relished the diversity in his graduate seminars on Latin American history, which drew students from medicine, public health, economics, and political science, as well as aspiring historians. “I remember having very strong differences of opinion during the seminar, and afterwards we would go to the faculty club and continue the discussions in a very tranquil way.”
A native of Jamaica, Franklin Knight earned his undergraduate degree at the University College of the West Indies–London and his graduate degrees from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. At Johns Hopkins, he became the first black faculty member to secure academic tenure. From 1998 he directed the Latin American Studies Program and between 2011 and 2014, Knight directed JHU’s Center for Africana Studies. His research centers on social, political, and cultural aspects of Latin America and the Caribbean, particularly following the eighteenth century. A highly respected scholar, Professor Knight has held fellowships from multiple foundations and research councils, and the National Endowment for the Humanities; and served as an academic analyst for public and commercial television and radio programs. He has been president of both The Historical Society and the Latin American Studies Association, served on numerous advisory councils and editorial boards, and lectured across the Americas, Europe, Australia, and Japan. The author, editor, or translator of influential books on Latin American history and culture, Dr. Knight has also written many chapters, articles, and forewords, as well as more than a hundred book reviews for professional journals.
Still, teaching remains Knight’s passion. “I have always said that what’s useful about what I’m doing in history is not the factual information I provide, but how you can use that factual information, how you can shape it to resolve a practical problem that you might have in any sphere of endeavor,” Franklin Knight explains. “I say to my students, year in and year out, that I want them to be less complacent about everything than when they came in. I want them to raise questions. I don’t presume that my students want to do history, but I presume that they want to be responsible citizens, and therefore what I want to do is to equip them to be better citizens wherever they are, and ‘better citizens’ means that they must be better informed.” Knight assumed emeritus status and joined the Academy at Johns Hopkins in 2014.
Health care gap closer
Identifying a problem is only the first step. On the issue of health care gaps, Thomas A. LaVeist has devoted his career to the next steps: why those gaps exist and how to close them. LaVeist is the director of the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions and the William C. and Nancy F. Richardson Professor in Health Policy at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The recipient of major awards from the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, LaVeist focuses on the areas of U.S. health and social policy; the role of race in health research; social factors contributing to mortality, longevity and life expectancy; quantitative and demographic analysis and access; and the utilization of health services. He earned a doctorate in medical sociology from the University of Michigan and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in public health at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health.
At Johns Hopkins, he teaches courses in health policy, minority health, cultural competency and racial disparities in health. A frequent lecturer at other universities and professional conferences, he consults often with federal agencies and health care organizations. He has written five books, including two regarding minority health, Race, Ethnicity, and Health: A Public Health Reader and Minority Populations and Health: An Introduction to Health Disparities in the U.S. His research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and numerous national foundations.