Cheyney's Oldest Alumnus Dies at the Age of 103

November 9, 2012

Dr. James R. Dumpson, former president of Cheyney University National Alumni Association (CUNAA)

Dr. James R. Dumpson, former president of Cheyney University National Alumni Association (CUNAA)

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania’s oldest living alumnus died Monday, November 5th of a stroke.  Dr. James R. Dumpson, PhD., a 1932 CU graduate, was 103 years old. 

“He was the oldest of my grandparents’ six children and the family looked up to him as the child who went to college, graduated, and accomplished so much in his life,” said nephew Jeff Hart, who graduated from Cheyney 50 years after his uncle.

Dumpson made history over the years as a public servant, educator, administrator, social activist, advocate, humanitarian and scholar.  While he started his career as a caseworker for the Philadelphia Department of Public Welfare, he became the first black welfare commissioner in the nation’s history when New York Mayor Robert F. Wagner appointed him in 1959.  He served the nation’s largest city for more than 60 years, directly reporting to six different mayors. His influence on public policy development for the health and human services has been felt across many policy domains at local, national and international levels.    

In 1953, Dumpson served as a United Nations Advisor/Chief of Training in Social Welfare to Pakistan.   Ten years later, President John F. Kennedy appointed Dumpson to the Commission on Narcotics and Drug Abuse-- the only African American appointed.   Dumpson severed as an advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, serving on various advisory commissions. In 1976 Dumpson was named Dean of Fordham University's Graduate School of Social Work, becoming the first black Dean of a non-black school of social work.  Fordham later named an endowed academic chair for him.          

Dumpson received many honors including Lifetime Achievement Awards from Cheyney University, the New York City Black Agency Executives, and the NY City Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

Dumpson was a past president of the Cheyney University National Alumni Association (CUNAA).  Just last month during CU's 175th Anniversary Gala, Dumpson was honored with a Living Legend Award.

“I express the condolences of the entire Cheyney University family on the passing of a most valued friend and international embodiment of Cheyney University,” said Michelle R. Howard-Vital, Ph.D., President of Cheyney University.

CUNAA President Junious Stanton said Dumpson “was the quintessential Cheyney graduate.  He was a true trailblazer who exemplified the Cheyney spirit. Dr. Dumpson had a thirst for knowledge; he thrived and excelled as a public servant and left a lasting legacy for us to emulate. He represented his beloved Cheyney extremely well throughout his long life and career. He never forgot where he came from. I’m so pleased the National Alumni Association recognized him at our recent 175th Anniversary Gala while he was still alive.”