Flora Dorsey Young, Ph.D., a retired Rowan University sociology professor and longtime resident of Lawnside, N.J., died of cancer on Feb. 9. She was 83.
Young was born on July 3, 1928, and grew up to be a prominent member of the Black middle class in Lawnside, the first independent self-governing African-American community north of the Mason-Dixon line. Her late husband, Dr. William P. Young Sr., was a well-known family physician in the borough.
She was an advocate for social justice and worked tirelessly to advance civil rights. She mentored countless students in the close-knit Lawnside borough of nearly 3,000 residents and sought to instill cultural pride and heritage in the youth.
Young was among the first Black faculty members hired in 1968 at then- Glassboro State College. She helped establish the Sociology Department and during her career spanning 27 years she influenced and taught more than 4,500 students. She retired in 1996.
She received numerous awards and secured funding for research grants to aid in getting projects completed and her works published.
She pushed to increase the number of Black undergraduates pursuing doctorates and successfully lobbied for “Hollybush,” a unique program at Rowan that prepared students for the rigorous coursework required to seek advanced degrees.
“She was a trailblazer,” said Julie Mallory Church, assistant director for Counseling and Psychological Services at Rowan in a recent tribute. “Her light shone very brightly, touching generations of students.”
A champion for education at every level, Young challenged her students with her no-nonsense “no excuse will do, tough love” teaching approach. Former students who became lawyers, social workers, teachers and other professionals credit her for setting the stage for their success.
Only days before her death, she assisted her young grandson, William III, with a school project on the Freedom Riders of the 1960s.
“She was an educator to the end,” said her daughter Dr. Marie Young-Robinson, an anesthesiologist in Philadelphia. “She was a strong family woman and an asset to all who knew her.”
Born in Philadelphia, Young was educated in the public school district and graduated from The Philadelphia High School for Girls in 1946. She inherited her spirited nature and quest for learning from her parents, the late Mary Gaskins Dorsey and Dr. Charles W. Dorsey, a well-known dentist, charter member of the National Dental Association and president of the Philadelphia Chapter of the NAACP.
She often quoted the words of her father, which inspired her to excel: “Do the best you can, always — no one can do more, but never stop trying. There is no sin so great as despair, and perhaps no virtue so vital as courage.”
While earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology at Howard University in Washington, D.C., she met her future husband, a young student at Howard Medical School. The couple married in 1950 and settled in Lawnside a few years later.
Young later obtained a Master’s Degree in Sociology from Howard and a doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania.
She studied with and under some of the most significant scholars in Black academia including E. Franklin Frazier, considered one of the most prominent African-American sociologists of the 20th century.
Young and her husband brought the renowned historian, the late John Hope Franklin, who chronicled the struggles of Black Americans and others to Lawnside to speak to a youth group that the couple formed to expose children in the community to their culture and heritage.
In a 2006 interview with the Lawnside Historical Society, Young noted: “We felt that our young people did not have a clue as to how proud they could be of the various ones that had gone before them. Of course, I still feel that way. I am quite annoyed with the lack of our young people really getting excited about knowing about their forefathers.”
Young and her husband were instrumental in encouraging and assisting youngsters to attend college, particularly historically Black colleges and universities. The couple tutored students, financed transportation and in some cases paid their tuition.
Young was a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., The Links Inc., the Auxiliary to the South Jersey Medical Society and the National Congress of Black Faculty. She attended the Chapel of the Annunciation in Lawnside.
Young is survived by: daughter, Dr. Marie Young-Robinson; son, Dr. William P. Young Jr.; grandchildren, William III and Marc Robinson; daughter-in-law, Kim Young and son-in-law, Martin Robinson.
A memorial service and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Omega Omega service were held on February 15 at Rowan University in the Student Center Owl’s Nest. Carl Miller Funeral Home handled the arrangements.
Donations in her name may be sent to: Howard University College of Arts and Sciences, Division of Alumni Relations, 2225 Georgia Ave., NW, Room 901, Washington, D.C. 20059. Attention: N. Bernard.