Alfred A. Edmond Jr., the editor in chief of BlackEnterprise.com, has devoted his career to promoting financial literacy among African Americans.
Alfred A. Edmond Jr. RC’83 was part of Rutgers’ robust black student movement of the late 1970s when his criticism of student leadership led to a “put up or shut up” challenge from an upperclassman to become an editor of Black Voice/Carta Boricua, the New Brunswick Campus newspaper for African Americans and Latinos. “I didn’t want to do it,” Edmond says of that day in 1979. “But I had to save face.”
As a sophomore, Edmond recruited roommates and friends to write for the publication, now called Black Voice/Carta Latina. The studio art major and economics minor did such a good job that he was recruited to be editor in chief the next year. “That’s when I knew I wanted to be an editor,” Edmond says. “Writing wasn’t what turned me on. It was managing a team, producing a publication, motivating unpaid students. That’s where I learned money is not a motivator.”
Today, Edmond is the editor in chief of BlackEnterprise.com, the website of Black Enterprise magazine, which he ran for 13 years before switching to the electronic product in 2008. He oversees an interactive media staff of 10 and wants to increase traffic from last year’s 450,000 hits a month to 750,000 a month by year’s end. He’s also senior vice president of Black Enterprise’s parent company, Earl G. Graves Publishing Co. Inc. Edmond, who appears regularly on television and syndicated radio, is a sought-after public speaker. The grandson of a minister, he addresses church groups on the subject of how to build wealth while retaining faith.
Black Enterprise educates its African-American readership about personal finance and consumer issues, “all leading to social and political equality.” After 23 years, Edmond says the magazine’s mission “still holds allure.” The oldest of four children raised by a single mother on welfare, the Long Branch native arrived at Rutgers naive about money management, believing that balancing his checkbook amounted to financial sophistication. That quickly changed. “This idea that Americans, and African Americans in particular, needed to be financially literate hit home.”
As a vocal undergraduate, he and others fought to reverse President Reagan’s deep financial-aid cuts and end university investments in apartheid South Africa. As an alumnus, he helped found the Rutgers African-American Alumni Alliance to honor graduates of color, like his role model, the civil rights activist Paul Robeson RC’19. “Everything I experienced at Black Voice, at Rutgers, prepared me for my work,” he says. “It captured what impassioned me—learning how media can empower people to make better choices. I was serving that mission long before I got to Black Enterprise. I just didn’t know it.”
— Angela Delli Santi
Accounting for Women’s Lives
Margaret Marsh has been on the leading edge of documenting American women’s history, writing articles and books on everything from gender and suburbanization to infertility.
Growing up in Vineland, Margaret Marsh CCAS’67, GSNB’69, ’74 was the only cousin who pestered her beloved Italian grandmother for stories about life as a teenaged immigrant. Perhaps it’s not surprising that Marsh grew up to become a historian of women’s lives, the author of books on subjects like anarchist women, gender and suburbanization, and infertility.
“I’m not so much interested in the past for the sake of the past,” says Marsh, University Professor of History, dean of both the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Graduate School–Camden, and former interim chancellor of the campus for two years. “I’ve always been interested in the past for the sake of what it tells us about what we are now.”
Italian-American girls of her generation were expected to work only until marriage—to have “something to fall back on in case our husbands got sick,” Marsh says. But Marsh’s high grades and test scores earned her a state scholarship to nearby Rutgers–Camden, where she majored in history, among the first in her family to go to college.
“I had small classes with teachers who really took an interest in me,” says Marsh. “I came here a very shy and very unformed 17-year-old, and I left with a fabulous skill set and some intellectual confidence.”
While enrolled in Rutgers–New Brunswick’s Ph.D. program, Marsh trained as an urban historian, but she quickly moved into the growing field of American women’s history—first as a professor at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and later as the developer of Temple University’s Ph.D. program in women’s history. She wrote about radical women who pushed the boundaries of female roles as well as about suburban families who defined those very boundaries.
While at Temple, she began a collaboration with her younger sister, obstetrician and gynecologist Wanda Ronner CCAS’74, that has produced two books: The Empty Cradle: Infertility in America from Colonial Times to the Present (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996) and The Fertility Doctor: John Rock and the Reproductive Revolution (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), a biography of the codeveloper of the birth control pill. The two women have begun work on a book tracing reproductive medicine from the 1970s to the present.
Marsh, who is married to Rutgers–Camden history professor Howard Gillette, applied for the deanship of Rutgers–Camden when a friend asked, “Wouldn’t you like to come back and do something for a place that did so much for you?” (“I’m susceptible to those kinds of things,” Marsh says dryly.) Twelve years later, she has no regrets. “This is a university with all the right values,” Marsh says. “I think this is a pretty special place.”
— Deborah Yaffe
A High-Tech High-Wire Act
Communications executive Greg Brown brought Motorola back from the brink. Because of sales and management acumen, the company has good reason for optimism.
When Greg Brown LC’82 was named co-CEO of Motorola in 2008, the personal- and business-communications company was in trouble. Its cell-phone division was hemorrhaging cash, employee morale was abysmal, its executive team needed an overhaul, and massive layoffs were imminent. His first six months on the job were, Brown says, “brutal.” But today, after assembling a new team, including hiring a co-CEO to roll out cutting-edge smartphones like the Droid, Brown says Motorola is profitable.
So how did he keep afloat an 82-year-old, multibillion-dollar company that has 60,000 employees worldwide? “My favorite phrase in life is, ‘Figure it out,’” Brown says. “It’s not what happens to you in life; it’s how you handle what happens to you.” He began to form that philosophy at Rutgers after taking a class with Robert Guttmann, an economics professor. “I loved the guy—inspirational, communicated clearly, connected with students, and cared a lot.” By sophomore year, Brown was interning at IBM, where, among other duties, he taught up to 30 customers at a time how to use word processors. Before his first class, “I was petrified to death,” he says. “I was forced to learn the technology, engage people, and get it done. I just loved that job.”
For a guy who considered himself “average” while growing up the youngest of five in Highland Park, it was an awakening. The Rutgers–IBM combo “put my development, professionally and personally, on steroids,” Brown jokes. Over the next two decades, he tackled a number of tech-related sales and executive-management jobs in which he beefed up the profitability of his employer, be it AT&T, the “baby Bell” Ameritech, or the network-management software firm Micromuse.
In 2003, he was recruited as president of the Motorola division that handles government and public-safety equipment; by the end of 2007, having facilitated the $3.9 billion acquisition of a tech firm, the board named him COO (later to become co-CEO). Faced with monumental challenges, Brown nevertheless knew where to start, recalling his earliest working days. “You have to get mud under your fingernails,” he says, “and wallow in the details with your team in a collaborative way, not in a boss-subordinate way.”
Next, he’ll oversee the split of the company and then serve as CEO of Motorola’s Enterprise Mobility Solutions and Networks business, which, among other products, develops and sells bar-code scanners as well as dispatch and emergency-radio systems. Whether pushing a product or a corporation, “I love the creativity and spontaneity of selling,” Brown says. “I like the competitiveness. It’s Darwinian and I love it.”
— Rich Shea RC’86
The New Voice in Fiction
With his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a street-hip, linguistically charged account of a Dominican family in America, Junot Díaz arrived with a splash.
If you’d told Junot Díaz 20 years ago that he’d end up in the Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni, he would have laughed. “When I was delivering pool tables and hustling at Rutgers to get classes and credits, it wasn’t anything I could have imagined,” he says.
Soon after graduating, Díaz RC’92 launched a writing career that was recognized, in 2008, with the winning of the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. A true honor, yes. “But,” Díaz says, “there are few that are as meaningful as being recognized by the place that I continue to believe made the present me possible.”
Born in the Dominican Republic, Díaz was 6 years old when he moved with his family to New Jersey, where, aside from being a working-class immigrant kid, he read everything, from sci-fi to history to literary fiction, while learning English and landing in gifted-and-talented classes. In high school, familial and social distractions put a crimp on his grades. So Rutgers, his first choice, was out. But after one semester of getting a 4.0 at Kean College, Díaz recalls, “I applied for a transfer, and BAM!”
Rutgers was indeed an explosion of sorts. “College was not just about finding people I could get along with,” Díaz recalls. “It was also coming up against a raft of ideas that I would never normally go along with, that made me feel uncomfortable, that stretched and challenged me.”
Díaz earned his M.F.A. at Cornell and produced Drown, a collection of short stories published to critical acclaim in 1996. Oscar Wao, a genre-bending novel that follows its ill-fated title character from the Dominican Republic to New Jersey, makes a stop at Rutgers—in particular, the culturally off-center Demarest Hall, where Díaz was a creative-writing resident. “The book argues that if you want to understand the heart of anything, you look first to the margins, to the thing that’s the weirdest,” Díaz says. “Demarest is Rutgers in the most profound way for the very reason that it’s unique and special and, in some ways, seems to be outside of it.”
Díaz isn’t finished with Rutgers. His work-in-progress—a sci-fi novel set 50 years in the future, “when the United States is unrecognizable”—addresses, in part, the university’s legacy. “Rutgers in the ’80s had a student activism that was still charged with the utopian visions of the ’60s and ’70s, this sense that ‘the Revolution’ was still possible,” he says. “Where does that ‘awakening’ go? That’s part of what I’m interested in tackling [in the new book]—setting it in the future because the future allows me to make the past new.”
— Rich Shea RC’86
When Image Really Counts
Douglas P. Boyd is a pioneer in CAT-scan technology and explosive-detection systems, saving people from both heart attacks and terrorist attacks.
Image is everything” is usually associated with celebrities and politicians. But the phrase couldn’t be more apt in the case of Douglas P. Boyd, a pioneer in CAT-scan technology and explosive-detection systems. “I discovered photography when I was 7 years old,” he says, “and my whole career has to do with making pictures.”
After specializing in physics at Rutgers, Boyd GSNB’68 got a job at Stanford University, where a research team was developing technology for cancer treatment. Back then, “you could only detect tumors when they started to bulge,” Boyd says. “Traditional X-ray imaging was not sensitive to soft tissue, and tumors are soft tissues. Basically, they were invisible.”
With Boyd serving as project leader, the team developed the first-generation “fan-beam” CAT—or computerized axial tomography—scanner. Using “a rotating fan of X-rays,” it could produce a 3-D image of a tumor. However, the process, taking five seconds, required that the patient remain still. When he accepted a post at the University of California at San Francisco in 1976, he wanted to develop an electron-beam CAT scanner so that no mechanical motion was necessary.
Over the next two decades, Boyd did just that. He was the chief architect of several generations of electron-beam computed tomography scanners, which, among other services, enable doctors to detect early signs of heart disease. As a student, Boyd could never have imagined that he’d end up helping to treat patients. “But when someone comes up and hugs you and says, ‘Thank you for saving my husband’s life,’ it’s very rewarding,” Boyd says. “That became an unexpected motivation.”
It has also paid off financially—in royalties for the 18 patents he’s coauthored and the companies he’s cofounded. InVision Technologies, for example, was founded in 1990 to address terrorists’ proclivity for bombing commercial airlines. “The airport-security problem is the same as the medical-imaging problem,” Boyd says. “You have packages that have something in them that doesn’t belong in them. It’s like detecting tumors.”
InVision designed and produced what has become a standard in airports: explosive-detection-system (EDS) scanners. Today, as CEO of TeleSecurity Sciences Inc., he is overseeing the development of 3-D software that will reduce EDS false alarms and be able to scan carry-on luggage. It’s only a matter of time before body scanners are introduced.
His career, Boyd says, is indebted to Rutgers, where, through a university venture with Bell Labs, he was introduced to the use of the tandem Van de Graaff accelerator, which provides electrons with enough momentum to produce X-ray images. The best was yet to come. •
— Rich Shea RC’86