Celebrating 150 Years of Activism and Excellence
The College of Arts and Sciences honors these fearless alumni and faculty of color whose courage and resolve inspires today’s students, alumni, faculty and staff to proudly carry on their legacy.
James Hope Birnie ’48 Ph.D.
A specialist in endocrinology and embryology, Dr. James Hope Birnie was Syracuse University’s first African American faculty member in biology. Birnie was one of Syracuse’s first biology faculty members to be supported by the National Institutes of Health. He advocated for equity in the sciences, traveling the country to encourage Black students to pursue careers in science and teaching.
Sharon Brangman ’77
Biology alumna Dr. Sharon Bragman is a national leader in geriatric medicine. Syracuse University has recognized her with the Chancellor’s Citation for Achievement in Medicine and the 2018 George Arents Award (the University’s highest alumni honor). Brangman is a Distinguished Service Professor and chair of the Department of Geriatrics at SUNY Upstate University Hospital, director of the Upstate Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease and Director of the Nappi Longevity Institute.
William Lewis Bulkley 1893 Ph.D.
William Lewis Bulkley was the first African American to earn a doctoral degree in classics and classical civilization from Syracuse University, and only the third African American to earn a doctorate in the U.S. He helped found two national civil rights organizations. Bulkley, a New York City educator, was an early founder of the National Urban League. One of his speeches inspired its slogan, “Not alms but opportunity.” He also co-founded the NAACP and served on its first executive committee.
Madelyn Garcia ’08
Madelyn Garcia, a psychology major, took action when she saw a need among her fellow students, so she co-founded the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) at Syracuse University. Thanks to her vision, Latino students have access to scholarships and networking opportunities with medical professionals across the country. Garcia is now LMSA’s deputy chief development officer and a medical student at SUNY Upstate Medical University.
John L. Johnson
John L. Johnson came to Syracuse University in 1966 as an assistant professor of special education and later became founding director of the African American Studies (AAS) program. AAS became a department in 1979. Johnson spoke out in his department and the community about civil rights, social inequalities and institutional racism. Later, he would become an associate superintendent of schools in Washington, D.C., and remained vigilant in fighting injustice.
Roslyn Pope ’74 Ph.D.
Growing up in the segregated south during the 1940s, A&S alumna Roslyn Pope’s first experience in an integrated society came during a Girl Scout trip to Wyoming as a teenager. As a young student she became determined to fight the evils of discrimination. While a senior at Spelman College in Atlanta, Pope wrote the famous document, An Appeal for Human Rights, which outlined the right to equality in education, jobs, housing, hospitals, entertainment and law enforcement. Pope was later awarded a grant to attend Syracuse University, where she obtained a doctoral degree in Humanities in 1974.
Rubye Torrey ’69 Ph.D.
In her late thirties when she enrolled as a Ph.D. student in analytical chemistry, Rubye Torrey shattered the era’s expectations by balancing marriage, motherhood and doctoral studies. Her research advanced the field of radiation-electro-analytical chemistry. Her legacy continues with an annual symposium at Tennessee State University. In 2019, Dean Karin Ruhlandt presided over a ceremony honoring Torrey’s many academic and professional achievements.
Chemistry professor George Wiley founded the Syracuse chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in 1960. As CORE’s first chairman, Wiley worked to end discrimination in Syracuse businesses and fought for integration in housing and schools. He later brought his commitment to racial equality and economic justice to the national level, founding the National Welfare Rights Organization.