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UAlbany Hosts Former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders as Guest Speaker for Martin Luther King Jr. Day Luncheon
First of a series of lectures to celebrate Black History Month

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Contact(s):  Catherine Herman (518) 956-8150

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 19, 2007) -- Dr. Joycelyn Elders, a pediatric endocrinologist and the first African American to hold the position of U.S. Surgeon General, will be the guest speaker for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Luncheon at the University at Albany on Feb. 6.

"It's an honor to host Dr. Elders and the events celebrating Black History Month," said Provost and Officer in Charge Susan Herbst. "Dr. Elders' experiences and insights expand and enrich the intellectual environment on our campus as it relates to black history."

Other speakers will present lectures throughout the month to help the University celebrate Black History Month. They are free and open to the public.

  • "What Manner of Man - A Call to Leadership and Service" by Dr. Raymond M. Burse, former Rhodes Scholar and vice president and general counsel at General Electric in Louisville, Kentucky, at 12:30 p.m. Feb. 7 in the Recital Hall at the Performing Arts Center.
  • "What Makes News?" by JoDee Kenney, Capital News 9 reporter in Albany, at 1 p.m. Feb. 14 in Humanities 039.
  • "The Significance of Diversity in the Judicial System" by Albany City Court Judge Helena Heath-Roland, at 1 p.m. Feb. 28 in Humanities 039.

"A Tribute to African Heritage," discussions and movies are among the other activities scheduled and include:  

  • "A Tribute to African Heritage," at 8 p.m. Feb. 6 in the Arena Theater of the Performing Arts Center.
  • "Two Towns of Jasper," feature-length documentary about the 1998 racially motivated murder of James Byrd Jr., at 10 a.m. Feb. 11 in Terrace Lounge of the Campus Center.
In September of 1993, Elders was confirmed as surgeon general of the U.S. Public Health Service under President Bill Clinton. During her tenure, she was an outspoken advocate on a variety of health-related causes. She argued for exploring the possibility of drug legalization and was a strong supporter of Clinton's plan for national health care. She was also an advocate for comprehensive health education, including sex education, in schools.

She resigned from the post in 1994 and returned to the University of Arkansas Medical Center as a professor of pediatrics.

Prior to becoming surgeon general, Elders was appointed director of the Arkansas Department of Health by then-Governor Clinton in 1987. In the position, her accomplishments included a ten-fold increase in the number of early childhood screenings annually and nearly doubling the immunization rate for two-year-olds.

In 1992, Elders was elected president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers.

Elders began her college career at the age of 15 when she was awarded a scholarship to Philander Smith College in Little Rock. She graduated at age 18 with a bachelor of arts degree in biology before enlisting in the U.S. Army.

Following her tour of duty, Elders attended the University of Arkansas medical school, receiving her doctor of medicine degree in 1960. She worked at the University of Minnesota Hospital and at the University of Arkansas, where she served as chief pediatric resident. In 1967, she received her master of science degree in biochemistry. She specialized in pediatric endocrinology and became an expert on childhood sexual development.

"The University at Albany is fortunate to have Dr. Elders lecture here. Her unabashed candor, great erudition, and inimitable oratorical skills will bode well for all of us who hear her," said Leonard A. Slade, Jr., program committee chairman for the Department of Africana Studies.

The event, sponsored in part by the Center for the Elimination of Minority Health Disparities and the Office of Student Success, will begin at noon in the Campus Center Ball Room. It is free and open to the public.

The University at Albany's Africana Studies programs rank in the top 10 in the nation according to Diverse Issues in Higher Education magazine. UAlbany is the only school in the SUNY system that offers a master's degree in Africana Studies. The department was created in 1969 as a result of the civil rights movement, and the master's degree program has attracted a growing number of international students. Graduates of the program can be found working as lawyers, government officials, and Foreign Service employees.

The University at Albany's broad mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and public service engages 17,000 diverse students in nine schools and colleges, and an honors college. For more information about this internationally ranked institution, visit theUniversity at Albany. Visit UAlbany's extensive roster of faculty experts.

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