Oldest alumnus, 103, had stellar career
Cheyney University’s oldest living alumnus died on Monday, Nov. 5 of a stroke. James R. Dumpson, Ph.D., a 1932 Cheyney graduate, was 103 years old.
“He was the oldest of my grandparents’ six children and the family looked up to him as the child who went to college, graduated, and accomplished so much in his life,” said nephew Jeff Hart, who graduated from Cheyney 50 years after his uncle did.
Dumpson made history over the years as a public servant, educator, administrator, social activist, advocate, humanitarian and scholar.
He started his career as a caseworker for the Philadelphia Department of Public Welfare, and later became the first Black welfare commissioner in the nation’s history when New York Mayor Robert F. Wagner appointed him in 1959. He served the nation’s largest city for more than 60 years, directly reporting to six different mayors. His influence on public policy development for the health and human services has been felt across many policy domains at local, national and international levels.
In 1953, Dumpson served as a United Nations adviser/chief of training in social welfare to Pakistan. Ten years later, President John F. Kennedy appointed him to the Commission on Narcotics and Drug Abuse – the only African American named. Dumpson was an adviser to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, serving on various advisory commissions. In 1976 he was named dean of Fordham University's Graduate School of Social Work, becoming the first Black dean of a non-Black school of social work. Fordham later named an endowed academic chair for him.
Dumpson received many honors, including Lifetime Achievement Awards from Cheyney, the New York City Black Agency Executive, and the New York City Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.
Dumpson was a past president of the Cheyney University National Alumni Association. Just last month during the university's 175th anniversary gala, he was honored with a Living Legend Award.
“I express the condolences of the entire Cheyney University family on the passing of a most valued friend and international embodiment of Cheyney University,” said Michelle R. Howard-Vital, president of Cheyney.
National Alumni Association President Junious Stanton said Dumpson “was the quintessential Cheyney graduate. He was a true trailblazer who exemplified the Cheyney spirit. Dumpson had a thirst for knowledge; he thrived and excelled as a public servant and left a lasting legacy for us to emulate. He represented his beloved Cheyney extremely well throughout his long life and career. He never forgot where he came from. I’m so pleased the National Alumni Association recognized him at our recent 175th anniversary gala while he was still alive.”
Dr. James R. Dumpson was a pioneer in social work, social health and social justice.
He died Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. He was 103.
Dumpson was born April 5, 1909 in Philadelphia. He was the the first of five children born to James and Edyth Dumpson.
He was raised in Philadelphia where he attended The Quaker School, Octavius Catto and West Philadelphia High for Boys.
In 1932 James R. Dumpson graduated from Cheyney Normal School (College) before going on to Temple University and earning graduate degrees from other universities around the world. He was considered one of the oldest living graduates of Cheyney University.
Dumpson’s career in the health and human services as a public servant, educator, administrator, social activist, advocate, humanitarian and scholar spanned for more than half a century.
His influence on public policy development for the health and human services has been felt across many policy domains at the international, national and local level.
He began his career as a caseworker for the Philadelphia Department of Public Welfare.
He moved to New York in the late 1930’s where he served the city for more than 60 years.
Dumpson had a number of history-making achievements throughout his lengthy career. From 1953 to 1954, Dumpson served as the United Nations advisor/chief of training in social welfare to the government of Pakistan.
In 1959, Dumpson was named commissioner of welfare for the city of New York, becoming the only African American welfare commissioner in the country. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy appointed Dumpson to the Commission on Narcotics and Drug Abuse. In 1976, he was named dean of Fordham University’s School of Social Work, becoming the first Black dean of a non-Black school of social work. Fordham later named an endowed academic chair for him.
Dumpson was the recipient of numerous awards including the New York City Black Agency Executives Lifetime Achievement Award; the New York City Chapter National Association of Social Workers Lifetime Achievement Award and the State Of New York Legislative Resolution “Spirit of Life” Award.
In 2009, the New York City Department of Human Service dedicated and named its conference hall, the Dr. James R. Dumpson Conference Hall.
Services were held Nov. 10 at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, 980 Park Avenue at 84th St., New York, N.Y. Burial was in Trinity Church Cemetery and Mausoleum, 770 Riverside Drive, New York, N.Y.
Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel of New York handled the arrangements.