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Alumni Newsmakers

Chairing the NAACP

Roslyn M. Brock, MS '89, the youngest person ever to serve as chairman of the NAACP, marks her one-year anniversary chairing the historic civil rights organization this winter. Despite having much still ahead of her, she has no trouble naming a career highlight.

"It came about because of GW. In my master's thesis, I used what I learned at GW, with the NAACP's organizational structure, to develop a health outreach program to minorities," says Ms. Brock, 45, who received her master's in health services administration. "The NAACP adopted my concept as a policy initiative, then amended its constitution to include health care as a standing committee. That's my personal claim to fame."

Ms. Brock, who is now vice president for advocacy and government relations at Bon Secours Health System, has 26 years of service with the NAACP that began when she was a college freshman.

"I grew up in the NAACP, loved it, and was very active, but never considered being in the senior echelon," says Ms. Brock, who is the fourth woman to hold the position. "Then about 10 years ago the vice chairman, CME Bishop William F. Graves, told me he wanted me to succeed him. I was floored, but because of his endorsement, in 2001 I became the first woman elected vice chairman. He stepped down so I could step up."

Ms. Brock is working alongside another young NAACP leader, President Benjamin T. Jealous. They are the NAACP's first leaders who were born after the civil rights movement.

"We must develop a clear and convincing social justice agenda that speaks to the needs of our constituents—individuals, regardless of race, who believe in equal opportunity, fairness, and equity for all," says Ms. Brock, who describes the job as "an awesome and humbling responsibility."

Before attending GW for her master's, Ms. Brock earned a bachelor's in business from Virginia Union University in 1987. She also earned a master's in business administration from Northwestern University and a master's in divinity, along with an honorary doctorate, from Virginia Union University.

"My parents, David and Eladis McCallister, were very nurturing and education was foremost to them," Ms. Brock says. "They instilled in me that you don't have to compromise to be recognized; society can't present you with anything that you can't handle; and it's really not about you, but about you being a positive force in the world."

Her interest in health care began in high school when aptitude tests suggested a career as a doctor, lawyer, or hospital administrator.

"I was intrigued by health care because I saw how my great-grandparents struggled through the health system as they aged, and I wanted to do something to assure seniors received quality medical care," says Ms. Brock, who adds that her grandparents taught her about giving back to the community.

"I chose GW for my master's because of its focus on health services administration, rather than hospital administration. GW also offered proximity to Congress and other groups grappling with health care issues. It was a stimulating learning environment and I'm very grateful to GW for the health care foundation I received," says Ms. Brock, who has worked with the New York State Department of Health, working in gerontological health. Ms. Brock has also worked at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation on community-based health programs, traveling extensively in southern Africa.

—Kathleen Kocks