Sepia toned map of Southeast Ohio
Claiming an Education: Early Black American Humanists

Educators: Physicians and Journalists Who Rose as Leaders

Barbara Ross-Lee


Barbara Ross-Lee, portrait

Becoming a Physician: Barbara Ross-Lee was born in 1942 and determined to pursue a career in medicine at a time when there were few female physicians. She earned her B.S. in biology and chemistry in 1965, and in 1973 she graduated as a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine from the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. She went into private practice in family medicine in Detroit, and then accepted a position in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services working on medical education and advancing people of color in medicine. 

Leading Two Colleges: Receiving many distinguished awards, in 1993 she accepted a position as Dean of Ohio University’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, becoming the first Black woman to be a dean of a medical school in the United States. She served in this capacity until 2001, when she became the vice president of Health Sciences and Medical Affairs at the New York Institute of Technology, and then in 2002 she became the Dean of the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Watch Dr. Ross-Lee discussing advancing Black Americans in medicine:

Carolyn Lewis


Carolyn Lewis, portrait

Studying Journalism at WVU: Carolyn Lewis was born in heavily segregated Bluefield, West Virginia, and in 1971 she became the first Black woman to graduate from the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism at West Virginia University. 

Managing a Public Television Station: She went to work at West Virginia Public Broadcasting in Morgantown (WNPB-TV), and from 1972 to 1997 she held many positions there from writer and announcer to General Manager, being the first Black American woman to be named general manager of a public television station in the United States. 

Winning Awards at WOUB: In 1997 she became the Director and General Manager of the WOUB Center for Public Media at Ohio University, where she earned numerous local, state, and national awards. In 2013, the Ohio University Board of Trustees named her the Director and General Manager Emerita of the WOUB Center for Public Media, and in 2021 she received the Medal of Merit for Professional Achievement from the university.

Listen to her discuss forging her path in public broadcasting.