Berkeley College Dedicates Donald M. Payne, Sr. Library


, 2013

Contact:  Ilene Greenfield
Director of Media Relations
201-291-1111, ext. 1-5122


On the same day former Newark Mayor Cory Booker was sworn in as U.S. Senator to the seat in Congress that he won in a Special Election held earlier in October, Newark’s Acting Mayor, Luis Quintana, along with 200 legislators, dignitaries, family and friends, gathered at Berkeley College in Newark. Those attending celebrated the lifelong legacy of the first African-American Congressman from New Jersey – disciplined teacher, mentor and humanitarian Donald M. Payne, Sr. – with the naming and dedication of the Donald M. Payne, Sr., Library at Berkeley College in Newark.

Many of the legislators knew Congressman Payne, Sr. personally, and with fond memories, spoke at the ceremony. They described Congressman Payne, Sr. as a humble and determined man who succeeded at overcoming odds and bettering himself. And he strongly encouraged others to do the same.

“Donald insisted the downtown Y be integrated,” said his brother, William Payne. “He wanted the best for his students. He would drive students who lived in public housing to colleges and insist they change their lives around.”

“It is so fitting for the library to be the place that remembers the life and leadership of Donald Payne, Sr.,” said New Jersey Senator Ronald Rice, who knew him since the mid-1950s. “He was a man who represented the work of true public officials. He stood for true change to make education accessible for everyone, and he led with conviction.”

“We were very fortunate to have Donald Payne deliver the Commencement Address in April 2011,” said Kevin L. Luing, Berkeley College Board Chairman. “Everyone in attendance learned of the obstacles he had to overcome to earn a college degree. In recognition of Donald Payne’s years of distinguished service as a teacher, a business executive, and an official elected to city, county and national offices, as well as his advocacy for access to an affordable education for those who wish to pursue higher education, Berkeley College awarded him an honorary doctorate. Now, this Berkeley College Library, which is the second home for many of our students who have benefitted from grants and scholarships and access to higher education, will be known as the Donald M. Payne, Sr. Library.”

“The library is the heart and soul of the institution,” said Dario A. Cortes, PhD, President of Berkeley College. “It is a safe haven where information, culture, history, research and learning converge. Today, Berkeley College dedicates the Donald M. Payne, Sr. Library, a fitting tribute for a man who left a global legacy of humanity and a love for education.”

New Jersey Assembly House Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver recalled a story about her family’s move from East Orange to Newark in the early 1960s and the first time she greeted Donald Payne, Sr. at her family’s front door. As president of the block association, Donald Payne, Sr. had come to ask her father to trim the hedges around the house, because they were too high to see clearly around the corner.

Speaking via digital video transmission from behind his desk in Washington, D.C., Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. expressed the honor he and his family felt about this special occasion. Although he wanted to be present for the Library dedication, he had to be in Washington, representing the 10th Congressional District, as his father did before him. The late Congressman’s daughter, Wanda Payne, took a break from her work as a preschool teacher to attend the ceremony on her lunch hour. She gratefully and emotionally thanked Berkeley College and those present for this honor bestowed upon her father.

The legacy of his life and his sense of community now live on at the Donald M. Payne, Sr. Berkeley College Library in Newark. Beyond the carefully etched letters of his name on the glass by the Library’s doors, and the large hand-painted portrait of this distinguished man that graces the inviting, comfortable and modern space where students are actively engaged, memorabilia recall his life.

Born July 16, 1934 to William Evander and Norma (Garrett) Payne, he grew up in a working-class area characterized by a sense of neighborhood and mutual dependence. He earned a BA degree from Seton Hall University in 1957 and went on to graduate studies. In 1958 he married Hazel Johnson, whose death in 1963 left him to care for their two preschool age children, Donald Milford, Jr. and Wanda.

A dedicated educator, Donald Payne, Sr. taught at South Side High School, Robert Treat Junior High School in Newark, and Pulaski Elementary School in Passaic, NJ. His work with the Young Men’s Christian Association, which began in 1964, involved organizing self-help projects that brought together local youngsters, including street gang members, and adult volunteers. Eventually, he served as the organization’s first African-American national president and as chairman of its Refugee and Rehabilitation Committee, a position that involved travel to more than 80 countries.

Donald Payne, Sr. served in Congress until his death in 2012.

Photo A: As Kevin L. Luing, Berkeley College Board Chairman, unveils the hand-painted portrait in the Donald M. Payne, Sr. Library at Berkeley College in Newark, distinguished guests (left to right) Dario A. Cortes, President of Berkeley College; W. Stan Holland, Berkeley College Campus Operating Officer, Newark; William Payne, brother of Donald Payne, Sr.; and Sheila Y. Oliver, New Jersey Assembly House Speaker, share the honor.

Photo B: New Jersey Senator Ron Rice, 28th Legislative District, and Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, 29th District (far right), present the New Jersey State Assembly’s acknowledgments at the dedication of the late Donald M. Payne, Sr. Library at Berkeley College in Newark. Joining them are (left to right) Dario A. Cortes, PhD, President of Berkeley College; Kevin L. Luing, Berkeley College Board Chairman; W. Stan Holland, Berkeley College Campus Operating Officer, Newark; and Teri Duda, Berkeley College Senior Vice President, Government Relations.


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