UC Professor to be Honored by the Urban League
Jeannette Taylor will be recognized for her long record of contributions to the Cincinnati USA community.
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Dotte Stover and Colleen Kelley
Jeannette Taylor, University of Cincinnati professor of social work and a UC alumna, will be honored with the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati’s 2008 “Glorifying the Lions Award” at the organization’s 59th annual meeting on Friday, Feb. 1. The award recognizes senior leaders who have displayed a long-standing commitment to the African-American community in Greater Cincinnati.
Taylor was UC’s first African-American female dean, leading the former College of Evening and Continuing Education (CECE) from 1989 to 2001. Among her many accomplishments, she was also called the “mother of distance education” at the university, with her vision paving the way for Ohio’s first baccalaureate degree program in addictions studies to be offered via distance learning (videoconferencing) by UC, beginning in 1998. Taylor has dedicated a lifetime to serving as a mentor for UC’s African-American students, faculty, staff and young professionals throughout the community.
Yet growing up in the ghettos of North Philadelphia, Pa., she says the advice of a high- school counselor nearly kept her from pursuing and achieving the dreams that have distinguished her today. “A high-school counselor told me to forget about college, that college was too hard, that my parents couldn’t afford it, and that I needed to work to help my parents out,” Taylor says. “That almost kept me from school. My mother and father, my pastor and a number of friends had to work at getting that out of my system so that I could get the courage to go,” she says.
She earned a scholarship to Delaware State College, becoming the first in her family to go to college, achieving a 4.0 grade-point-average her junior and senior year (overcoming academic probation her first semester) and graduating with her bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1963. While attending school in Dover, Del., civil rights protests were taking place across the nation, and Taylor says she joined the protests against racism by participating in sit-ins at lunch counters.
“We always knew we were not inferior,” she says. “We always knew that racism was something that was unfair. We were very aware of the differential treatment we received. We knew that when we went shopping downtown, one of two things would happen: they would not let us in the store, or we’d be told, ‘this is too expensive,’ because they knew we would often buy in defiance of their definition of us. The sit-ins were one of the things that I did because it was the right thing to do,” Taylor says.
As she pursued her master’s degree in social work from Atlanta University, Taylor participated in the civil rights protests in Atlanta and Selma, Ala., led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Reverend Ralph Abernathy. “By the time I got to Atlanta, the protests had escalated into more of a national movement,” she says. As a graduate student in social work, she and her peers also worked to integrate the staff at area social service agencies. “We were the first class of African-American students placed at some of those agencies and I was placed at Milledgeville State Hospital in Milledgeville, Ga., which had never hired a black professional, much less a black student, so they put us in separate living quarters contiguous to the units that housed the criminally insane population and created a separate dining facility for us because we were not allowed to dine with white students and staff,” recalls Taylor.
Upon achieving her master’s degree in 1965, Taylor was recruited to Cincinnati as a caseworker for Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses, providing “strength-based services to African-American families, which interested me much more than trying to help people adjust to maladjustment,” she says. During her tenure at the agency, Taylor says she developed and managed the city’s first Afro-centric comprehensive child development center, lobbied for state licensing requirements for child care centers and co-designed UC’s first community partnership training program with the UC College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH) to prepare child-care workers in African-American communities.
Taylor earned her PhD from the University of Cincinnati in 1979, pursuing an interdisciplinary program of social psychology, education and planning. While pursuing her degree, Taylor co-led the development of the Cincinnati Without Walls baccalaureate program at Antioch/Union Institute and became its first chief academic director. At the completion of her degree, she became an employee for UC when she was appointed director of the Division of Continuing Education and was later appointed dean of the College of Evening and Continuing Education and professor of social work. A conference room in French Hall-West, the location of the School of Social Work, is named in her honor for her extraordinary contributions to the university and the Greater Cincinnati community.
Now active in her role as professor in the School of Social Work, Taylor continues to advise and serve as mentor to graduate and undergraduate social work students. She is a long-time member of the Morning Star Baptist Church and her extensive activities in the church include teaching, mentoring, training and providing outreach services to the community.
“God has been really good,” she says. “There is no way, without His presence, His power, that I could have overcome the obstacles of being poor, of being African-American and female, of growing up in an urban area where failure was almost an expectation from the broader society. I did not do all of that on my own.”
Taylor is among five people to be honored with the 2008 “Glorifying the Lions Award” from the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati. The other recipients are the Honorable Jack Sherman, Jr.; renowned photographer C. Smith; Judith Van Ginkel, president of Every Child Succeeds; and Clarice White, former Enquirer Woman of the Year. They will be recognized on Feb. 1 at the Urban League’s annual meeting and luncheon in the Hyatt Regency Grand Ballroom downtown.