2014 Heritage Reception Honoring Dr. Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H; ’73P&S, ’96PH

Dr. T smile

Please join the BAC and the Columbia Alumni Association (CAA) on Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at the Columbia Club of New York as we honor our the distinguished Dr. Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H; ’73P&S, ’96PH for the 2014 Black Alumni Heritage Award Reception.

A celebration with wine, beer, and hors d’oeuvres will follow the program. Please note, you must be 21 years and over to be served alcohol. No exceptions.

Location: Columbia University Club of New York, 15 West 43rd Street New York, NY 10036-7402


In advance: $5 students $20 BAC members $25 alumni/guests

At the door: $10 students $30 BAC members $35 alumni/guests

(includes wine, beer, and hors d’oeuvres)




Dr. Yvonne S. Thornton is a double Board-certified perinatal consultant in obstetrics, gynecology and maternal-fetal medicine.  She is Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at New York Medical College in New York. Dr. Thornton is a Diplomate of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a former Senior Oral Examiner for the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

As senior perinatologist in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, Dr. Thornton established and developed the program for a new form of early prenatal diagnostic testing known as CVS (chorionic villus sampling).  Dr. Thornton was one of the original American investigators whose CVS results were relied upon by the FDA prior to its granting approval for the procedure.

Dr. Thornton is a member of the Association of Women Surgeons, a life member of The New York Academy of Medicine, and is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Her biography is presently in Who’s Who in America, Wikipedia and Who’s Who in the World.  She has been listed in The Best Doctors——New York Metro Area, as well as in New York Magazine as one of the top ten Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialists in New York City.  Doctor Thornton was the first black woman in the United States to be Board-certified in High-Risk obstetrics and to be accepted into The New York Obstetrical Society.  Dr. Thornton and her husband volunteered for active military duty and she was commissioned as a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy at The National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda (Hospital of The President).

Dr. Thornton was the first woman in the 165-year history of the International Platform Association to win the prestigious Daniel Webster Oratorical Competition held annually in Washington, D. C.  For many years Dr. Thornton has been an outspoken advocate on women’s health issues and was a spokesperson for The March of Dimes.  She has hosted her own television show broadcast from New York City on women’s health and has appeared on such popular television shows as “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, “The TODAY Show” and “Good Morning, America”.

She is the author of the beloved national bestselling memoir, “The Ditchdigger’s Daughters”, which was first published in 1995 and has never been out of print.   Her book was also featured on the “Oprah Winfrey Show”.  This family biography is a tribute to her parents and was condensed in The Reader’s Digest, translated into 19 languages, adapted into an award-winning World Premiere Movie and nominated for the Peabody Award and the CableACE Award for Best Picture.  The American Library Association has named “The Ditchdigger’s Daughters” as one of the Best Books for Young Adults. In 2006, her book was selected as ONE BOOK New Jersey to spearhead the state’s literacy campaign.  Doctor Thornton has authored three other books: a medical text entitled, “Primary Care for the Obstetrician and Gynecologist” and two women’s health books, “Woman to Woman” and ”Inside Information for Women”.  Her highly acclaimed new memoir, “SOMETHING TO PROVE”, released in 2010, chronicles her life as a wife, mother and full-time practicing obstetrician in an academic medical center and was named the Grand Prize Winner of the 2011 New York Book Festival.

Dr. Thornton was born in New York City and raised in Long Branch, New Jersey. After graduating with honors from Monmouth College in New Jersey, she received her M. D. degree from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.  Doctor Thornton was the first American woman to be accepted into the OB/GYN residency program at The Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. She then completed a post-doctoral fellowship in Maternal-Fœtal Medicine at The Sloane Hospital for Women and The Babies Hospital at ColumbiaPresbyterian Medical Center.

Dr. Thornton has been awarded several honorary doctorate degrees, most recently, the degree of Doctor of Science (Sc.D.) from Tuskegee University.  She and her husband have also received their Executive Masters (M.P.H.) degree in Health Policy and Management from Columbia University.  Dr. Thornton has been married for 40 years.  Her husband is an orthopædic surgeon and she is the mother of two children. Her daughter is a graduate of Stanford University with an M. P. H. in sociomedical science and her son, also a physician, is a cum laude graduate of Harvard University and received his M. D. from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

To learn more about Dr. Thornton, please visit http://www.doctorthornton.com

SEAS ’10 Grad is Engineering Entreprenurship

Khalid Davd SEAS Crown 20131115(Khalid David with SEAS Crown/ Photography by Michael Rain)

Khalid David, ‘10SEAS, is not feeling the pressure. He has a few weeks left to achieve the ambitious feat of raising $10,000 for Bunkers Hill Construction, the company he started three years ago in his basement. He kicked off a crowd funding campaign on SmallKnot with the goal of raising funds to develop a “toolbox” so the company can continue working on projects in various communities including Harlem. He is also seeking to secure space in Harlem Garage.

Launching a crowdsourcing campaign to support a young business this size may seem to be a reach, but finding unlikely success has been a theme in his life.

“I’ve always been on the winning side of risk,” he says confidently. Khalid is the first-generation son of working class parents. He earned two bachelor’s degrees in five years as part of the Columbia Combined Program. He holds a B.S. in Applied Physics from Morehouse College and a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Columbia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS).

While many young engineers were looking to forge a pre-MBA career path, Khalid stuck with his passion. “I didn’t want to work on Wall Street like some people,” he says. “Good money, good career, but not for me.

The Bunkers Hill campaign video:

“When you’re young gifted and black you got to be willing to understand that however it happens for you it’s going to be unorthodox. You are never going to fit into the traditional success model.”

However, three years ago, Khalid graduated into the Great Recession—an economy that was rough on even the brightest most credentialed college graduate.  He was searching for a project engineer opportunity in construction but found difficulty despite his experience working for the biggest names in the industry including Turner Construction and Kellogg, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton.

“That process was demoralizing,” he said of applying for jobs. “I got tired of feeling like somebody else had control over my value and worth. I got tired of that and felt like I can control my value and my worth.”

After several months of enduring rejection he decided to try to create his own opportunity. He reconnected with the root of his passion and his faith.

“Construction is something that I love. It is something that I am. It is something I feel like I’ve been groomed to be the absolute best at.”

As prayer would have it, Khalid’s uncle, an experienced carpenter, was looking to bid on a project for a church to convert a residential building into office units that met the demands of a modern commercial space.  Khalid developed a detailed estimate and quality breakdown that was chosen and soon he found the encouragement he needed.

“To see $30,000 pass through my business account in the first month made me think, that if I could master this skillset, I could be in business for myself.” He then founded Bunkers Hill Construction and has since secured a number of projects providing interior renovations for commercial and residential spaces, mainly in his home of Mount Vernon and in the Harlem community.

KhalidDavid SEAS Miner 20131115(Khalid David with SEAS Miner at Mudd/ Photography by Michael Rain)


Reaching out to his networks and his communities is Khalid’s plan for how he will pull off a successful crowdsourcing campaign. He is an active alumnus in the Columbia entrepreneurial community and the larger HBCU network.

He notes and reveres the guidance of his mentors, Bruce Lincoln, former entrepreneur-in-residence at SEAS and current senior fellow at Columbia Institute for Tele-Information as well as Chris McGarry the director for entrepreneurship for Columbia Entrepreneurship.

Khalid is hoping the places where he cultivated his managerial skills will embrace and support him with his initiative. Khalid served in leadership positions for National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) chapters at Morehouse and Columbia and was elected vice president of Black Student Organization (BSO).

More generally, Khalid thinks crowdsourcing is an ideal method for black entrepreneurs who do not have access to deep pockets or a pipeline to VC’s. He believes the platform will provide a simple method for entrepreneurs to collect a wide base of support from groups of people who can give in small amounts.

Instead of copying the well-noted models of startup ventures, Khalid seeks to tweak and experiment with a variety of approaches. He acknowledges that the road to progress is going to be a different path for a person of color.

He advises, “When you’re young gifted and black you got to be willing to understand that however it happens for you it’s going to be unorthodox. You are never going to fit into the traditional success model.”


Michael Rain is the communication chair for the BAC. He can be reached at mr2593@caa.columbia.edu.

Dr. Craig Steven Wilder explores a hidden history of America’s most prestigious institutions


MORNINGSIDE—On a warm Sunday afternoon at Riverside Church, a congregation of interested minds joined a panel of scholars for a discussion of Dr. Craig Steven Wilder’s (’89, ’93, ‘94 GSAS) new book Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities. The text explores the historical relationship between American institutions of higher learning and the expropriation of Native Americas and the slave economy.

Dr. Wilder, Professor of History and Head of History Faculty at Massachusetts Institute of Technology was accompanied by an impressive group of distinguished academics moderated by journalist and New York Times editorial board member Brent Staples. The group included, Dr. Farah Jasmine Griffin, Professor, English, Comparative Literature, & African American Studies, Columbia University, Dr. Elvin Montgomery (‘79TC), Professor, Researcher/Appraiser African American Material Culture; Dr. Emily Anderson, Professor and Chairperson, Dept. of Social Sciences & Human Sciences, BMCC and Dr. Frederick Newsome, MD, Physician, Harlem Hospital and African/African American History Researcher/Author.

The conversation on Dr. Wilder’s research covered a wide range of topics including how slavery impacted academic research and donation appeals. Universities developed “race science,” and led fundraising efforts built on “civilizing heathen” Native Americans.

When asked by Mr. Staples whether he feared his research would negatively impact his position as an academic, Dr. Wilder shared some wise words from his mother, “If you are not at risk of getting fired, you are not doing your job.”

Dr. Wilder was awarded the University Medal of Excellence during Columbia’s 250th Anniversary Commencement in 2004. He is also prominently featured in “The Central Park Five,” the Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon documentary.


1377974_10151936161586133_1765678206_n Moderator Brent Staples with Dr. Wilder


547513_10151936164171133_1217197480_nFrom left to right: Dr. Farah Jasmine Griffin, Dr. Frederick Newsome, Dr. Craig Steve Wilder, Dr. Emily Anderson and Dr. Elvin Montgomery


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L to R -- Dr Celia Taylor, Dr Judith Byfield, Dr. Wilder, Luvon Roberson -- The Riverside Church on 09.29.2013From left to right: Dr. Celia Naylor, Associate Professor of History, Barnard College; Dr. Judith A. Byfield, ’93 GSAS Associate Professor of History, Cornell University, Dr. Craig Steven Wilder and Luvon Roberson, ’85 GSAS


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1376570_10151936163536133_801221866_nCaptive audience members


To view more photos, please visit the Riverside Church Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151936150121133.1073741826.322708406132&type=3

White House chief of black education is “passionate” about his work


David Johns l, is President Barack Obama’s choice as the first executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. By Renee Schoof | McClatchy Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON All through his years of schooling, David Johns was one of the few African-Americans in his classroom, from the high school in Los Angeles that was nearly an hourlong bus ride away but that his mother insisted he attend to Columbia University in New York.

Even when he taught elementary school in Manhattan, not a single black student sat behind one of the desks before him.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/08/14/199382/white-house-chief-of-black-education.html#storylink=cpy