Mary E. Mathis-Ford (chairperson)
Mary E. Mathis-Ford became a member of the UMDNJ Board of Concerned Citizens (BCC) in January 1982 as a representative of Planned Parenthood Metropolitan New Jersey (formally Planned Parenthood of Essex County). She served from1986 to 1987 as the BCC Vice-Chair. In 1987 she was appointed Chair and brought new direction to the BCC. Instead of a reactive board, the BCC embraced on active focus on the well being of the University and the patients who utilized its healthcare facilities. Greater attention to programs for youth became a priority under Ms. Mathis-Ford's leadership, and nearly 2,500 children participate in special programs on health issues each year. Ms. Mathis-Ford also recognized the value of BCC participation in community health fairs. Providing valuable health information and useful gifts for free at these fairs helped foster a mutual trust and respect between the community and the University. Ms. Mathis-Ford finds great pleasure in her membership in the BCC and believes that her work there advances her goal to help people in any way she can. Her motto: Better to give than receive.
Barbara Andrews-Jenkins was born and reared in the Central Ward of Newark and educated in the Newark school system. An employee of UMDNJ since 1988, she has held various positions with the New Jersey Trauma Center and University Hospital administration. She is currently with The Institute of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at New Jersey Medical School. She credits the development of leadership skills to participation in the Newark Initiative-IV Leadership Program and on its alumni executive board, Leadership Focus. Ms. Andrews-Jenkins is currently pursuing an M.P.A. at Rutgers University. She is a counselor-in-training and public speaker for "Choices," a support group for women victims of domestic violence. A life-long member of the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark, she is active in various ministries addressing needs of the community. Her philosophy: Remain focused during life's challenges, maintain your integrity, and honor God.
Denise Cook is a lifelong resident of Newark. She attended Livingston College of Rutgers University. She has been employed by the IRS since 1977, and is presently a bankruptcy specialist. Ms. Cook's many volunteer activities reflect her commitment to serving and improving the community. She is a deaconess at Divinity Missionary Baptist Church, where she is involved in pastoral care, and a member of the auxiliary board at UMDNJ-University Hospital. She is president of Unified Vailsburg Services Organizations (UVSO) and a member of the Newark police and clergy alliance domestic violence response team. Ms. Cook was a Leadership Newark fellow, a committee member for its youth conference. She also belongs to the Newark branch of the NAACP and the Newark Historical Society. Ms. Cook joined the BCC in January 2005.
Paul Crawford is Assistant Director of Construction in the Physical Plant Department at UMDNJ. Mr. Crawford came to this country from Jamaica in 1970. He began his career at the University in April 1970 in what was then known as Martland Hospital. He "grew" with the institution, as he likes to say, and has held several different positions in the Physical Plant Department. He has served on several different committees at the University, including the University Family Campaign, of which he was the operation coordinator. Mr. Crawford has spent half of his life in the City of Newark and views his membership on the BCC as a way to give a helping hand to those less fortunate members of the community.
Torian Easterling is a medical student at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School. Mr. Easterling was raised in Newark and came to medical school here, as he says, to "give his time back to the community." He has been a member of the board since 2003, and is involved in various other community projects serving underserved areas both locally and abroad.
Steven Keller, Ph.D.
Dr. Steven Keller is a Professor and Assistant Dean of UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School. He has been a longtime participant in BCC activities and a very active Board Member. His involvement ranges from health fairs to clothing and sneaker drives to fundraising through the Robert Talley Fund. Dr. Keller believes that giving back to the community and serving the community are responsibilities as faculty members and family members of the Newark community. To him, the BCC is the most effective vehicle for accomplishing these critical responsibilities. He proudly serves as a BCC member along with "many fine and dedicated persons."
Leora Liggins, M. DIV., M. A., LPC, CSW
The Reverend Leora Liggins is the pastor and founder of Christ Resurrection Missionary Baptist Church in East Orange, New Jersey. She holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Seton Hall University and a Master of Divinity from Drew University Theological Seminary. Reverend Liggins is currently studying for a Doctor of Theology from Andersonville Theological Seminary in Andersonville, Georgia. She is a member of the American Baptist Church of New Jersey Professional Ministry and the East Orange Clergy group. Reverend Liggins was employed for 17 years by UMDNJ's University Behavioral HealthCare (UBHC) in Newark as a clinical supervisor and was actively involved with the BCC as a representative of UBHC during that time. She retired in 1999, and at that time she was appointed to the BCC after more than 25 years of community involvement.
Minnie Presley has been a member of the BCC since its inception in 1971. She has a long history of involvement in her community, moving forward common goals and aspirations. Ms. Presley participates in many BCC projects, especially activities for school children, the senior citizen programs, and the holiday food and toy projects. In addition to her work on the BCC, Ms. Presley is the current president of the auxiliary at UMDNJ-University Hospital.
Robert A. Schwartz, M.D., M.P.H.
Dr. Robert Schwartz is a longtime member of the BCC. He graduated in political science from the University of California at Berkeley, where he remained for a Master of Public Health degree in medical administration prior to matriculating into medical school in Manhattan. With Chairperson Mary Mathis-Ford, Dr. Schwartz has been a dedicated advocate for the BCC and for recognition of its importance to the University and to the community. He recently authored an article, "New Jersey Medical School - the First Fifty Years," on the occasion of the milestone anniversary. He had previously edited a special edition of the magazine of the New Jersey Medical Society honoring New Jersey Medical School on its 40th anniversary. Included in that publication was a history of the medical school, written by Dr. Schwartz with Dr. Carroll M. Leevy, the BCC's first chairperson.
Marielos L. Vega, B.S.N, RN
Marielos L. Vega was born and raised in San José, Costa Rica. She is a research nurse in the Department of Family Medicine at New Jersey Medical School. Ms. Vega is the Chair of the Education, Outreach and Research Committee for the Essex County Cancer Coalition. As a BCC member, she has been very involved in activities such as the Robert Talley Annual Scholarship Dinner Dance, the Thanksgiving Food Drive, Harmony Day, and the Christmas Toy Drive. One of her greatest pleasures: Dressing as Santa Claus during the Christmas holidays to bring toys and joy to the children at University Hospital.
Reverend Dr. Elijah L. Williams, Jr.
The Reverend Dr. Elijah L. Williams, Jr., is an ordained minister presently serving as pastor of Welcome Baptist Church. Located on 12 th Avenue in Newark, the church is a near neighbor to the University campus. Dr. Williams has been affiliated with UMDNJ since 1972.
Lonnie Wright has been employed at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School for the past 31years as the Director of Undergraduate and Pre-Matriculation Programs, and as Director of Recruitment. He has been an active member of the BCC for the past 12 years. At the medical school, Mr. Wright is actively involved in the recruitment, admissions, and retention of minority and/or disadvantaged students. Through his efforts, more than 1,300 students from underrepresented minority groups have graduated from New Jersey Medical School and countless others have attended other medical schools. Many of these graduates have remained in or returned to the greater Newark area to improve the health care delivery to urban communities.