I come from good, strong, achievement-oriented stock. My father was a Fulbright Scholar with a PhD from the University of Chicago in Political Science (and second in Religion), who led the integration of Virginia Beach, fought for Voting Rights in Tuskeegee, Alabama, and built an academic and administrative career that culminated in his position as Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia (UVA), the position he held at his death. My mother, also a professor (in her case, of Education), earned straight As in her PhD program and, at one time or another, has headed up about every organization she’s ever belonged to. She is still one of the busiest people I know. My grandparents no doubt set the stage. My paternal grandfather was an entrepreneur and ordained minister who owned apartment buildings, founded a church in New Jersey that remains a fixture in the community a half century after his death, and has a dormitory named after him at Virginia State University, where he was once Dean of Men and coach of men’s football and baseball. My paternal grandmother, a graduate of Howard University, was the 4th National President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the oldest African-American sorority in the United States. My maternal grandparents were also great achievers. My grandfather, who was an educator and community leader, has a school named after him in Florence, South Carolina, where he lived, and my maternal grandmother was a secretary and union organizer who died when I was just a year old, a loss that I felt all the deeper when, shortly before his death, my father, who by then had been divorced from my mother for 34 years, reminisced with me about the truly extraordinary human being she was.
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