Black History Month Message From Trustee Linton

  • Trustee Linton(February 2022) My name is Rosemarie Linton, and I recently joined the Board of Education in January 2022.  Although my background is in health care, I first studied Finance at Fordham University. This was just 40 years after the first Black undergraduate student, Matthew Adam, graduated from Fordham University. Then I went on to study Biostatistics at Columbia University.  

    What is Biostatistics? It’s an area of mathematics that focuses on probability theory, specifically in health sciences. The advancement I was able to make educationally and in my career was not only due to my hard work but due to the doors that were opened in the United States during the Civil Rights movement led primarily by Martin Luther King, Jr.    

    Today, I am proud to share that at my two alma maters, both in New York City, high-achieving graduates are named after African-American scholars.   At  Fordham Law School, the top 25% of each class are named Ruth Whitehead Scholars after the first African American woman to practice law in New York State. She was the first woman to graduate from Fordham Law School and achieved cum laude status in 1924. Cum laude means she graduated with honors.  At Columbia’s School of Public Health, each year at graduation a student is awarded the Bernard Challenor Spirit Prize, which is one of the school’s top honors.  Bernard Challenor (born in 1936) was a pioneering African-American public health scientist, Columbia professor, and public health leader who was at the center of one of history’s singular public health achievements: the eradication of smallpox. 

    What is Smallpox?  Smallpox was a contagious, disfiguring and often deadly disease that affected humans for thousands of years. Naturally occurring smallpox was wiped out worldwide by 1980 — the result of an unprecedented global immunization campaign.  Just as there are vaccines for COVID today, 50+ years ago, people around the world were getting smallpox vaccines. Just about everyone in every country received a vaccine. As a result, your classmates don’t have to get vaccinated for smallpox and maybe not even your parents, but most likely your grandparents were vaccinated. The next time you see them, you can ask them to show you the scar on their arm. 

    I just shared a little Black History from the two colleges that I attended but there is so much more to learn! From Universities in Africa – specifically in Morocco, Mali and Egypt that are over 1000 years old - to the pharaohs of ancient Egypt, to our US President Obama and VP Kamala Harris, to writers like Langston Hughes or Maya Angelou, and rocket scientists like Katherine Johnson whose calculations of orbital mechanics as a NASA employee were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S.-crewed spaceflights.

    I encourage you to go to your closest library and learn more not only about the famous African American athletes, actors, and musicians, but also learn more about African American inventors, scholars, scientists, mathematicians, politicians, and Nobel prize laureates.