December 14, 2011
Howard University Community:
Today, we celebrate the lives of two civil rights champions in the fields of communication and medicine: Mr. Ofield Dukes, who passed away on Wednesday, Dec. 7, at age 79; and Dr. Muriel Petioni, who passed away on Tuesday, Dec. 6, at age 97. On behalf of the Howard University community, I extend sincere condolences to their families.
As a master public relations strategist, visionary and humanitarian extraordinaire, Mr. Ofield Dukes facilitated the launch of Howard University's School of Communications in 1971. He also led the development of its public relations curriculum and worked as an adjunct professor for 25 years. He served unselfishly as a mentor to legions of African American and other students. As a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) and a member of its Board for 14 years, he was a strong supporter of the CBCF internship program and a staunch advocate for young professionals of color.
Mr. Dukes served as a public relations counselor to three Howard presidents – James E. Cheek, Franklyn Jennifer and H. Patrick Swygert—and the Howard Board of Trustees and provided sage advice regarding strategic communications and issues management. Known as the "Quiet Giant," Mr. Dukes was honored in 2001 with the Gold Anvil Award from the Public Relations Society of America, the highest individual award given in the industry.
Dr. Muriel Petioni, known as "the mother of medicine in Harlem," graduated from Howard University's Medical School in 1937. She was the only woman in her class. As the daughter of Charles Petioni, a Howard graduate and one of Harlem's first black physicians, she continued in her father's legacy. Dr. Petioni opened her medical practice in the 1950s on the ground floor of her childhood home and was one of the first African Americans to receive staff privileges at Harlem Hospital. She promoted healthy diets and eating habits as part of initiatives to prevent diabetes, obesity and other health risks prevalent in the African-American community. During her illustrious career that spanned more than half a century, Dr. Petioni worked as a school physician for Harlem's Health Department, a founder and leader of multiple community health organizations, an advocate for elderly health care, an educator and a mentor to broad segments of the community.
The innumerable sacrifices and contributions that Mr. Ofield Dukes and Dr. Muriel Petioni made in their lifetimes will forever resonate among the Howard University community, the nation and the world. They are true champions of Howard and we extend our deepest condolences to their families and friends.
Sidney A. Ribeau
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