LAFF Society


In Memoriam, Fall 2016


J. Michael Turner, Seeking Social Justice
J. Michael Turner, who worked for the Foundation from 1979 to 1985 and was a leading figure in social justice initiatives in Latin America and Africa, died August 24 in New York City.
Mr. Turner began working at Ford as an assistant program officer in the Latin America and Caribbean office and six months later moved to the Brazil office. He became a program officer in the Developing Program Office in 1982, stationed in Brazil, and was transferred to the New York City headquarters in 1984. He completed his assignment at Ford in June 1985.
He studied African and Latin American history at Yale University, Harvard University and Boston University, from which he received a doctorate in 1975. He had taught at Boston University, Clark University, the College of the Holy Cross and the University of Brasilia before joining the faculty of the City University of New York’s Hunter College, from which he retired in 2011.
Mr. Turner had been a professor of history at Hunter, director of its Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program, and co-founder of the Global Afro Latino and Caribbean Initiative (GALCI). He also pioneered its Education Abroad Program in Salvador, capital of the Brazilian state of Bahia. 
Based in part upon his work for the Brazil office of the Ford Foundation, his interest in social justice for African descendants in Brazil expanded to developing advocacy programs in conjunction with the Franklin H. Williams Diaspora Institute and Caribbean Cultural Center for Afro Latino NGOs in Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Uruguay, Panama, Venezuela, Honduras, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Barbados, the Dominican Republic and other countries in the region. 
Initially designed to support the work of Afro Latino NGOs attending the United Nations World Conference on Racism, Xenophobia and Other Forms of Social Intolerance, held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, GALCI also collaborated with its members to provide better and more regular access to such multi-lateral funding institutions as the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Inter-American Foundation and such private donors as the Ford and Rockefeller foundations. 
Kenneth Erickson, a professor of political science at Hunter College who knew Mr. Turner as both a colleague and friend, wrote the following remembrance:
Jerry Michael Turner, known to his friends as Michael and professionally as J. Michael Turner, combined teaching and academic research with applied policy-relevant work seeking justice for Afro-descendants in two hemispheres. In addition to teaching, he sought policy impact as a program officer and consultant with the Ford Foundation, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and on speaking tours.
Michael’s pioneering policy work involved agenda-setting that placed Afro-Brazilians and Afro Latinos, long ignored in their established societies and by outside observers, onto the agendas of officials, politicians, social-policy makers, journalists and scholars. As a co-founder of GALCI and in his other work he served as a catalytic contact broker who energized Afro Descendent activists and linked them with international and domestic NGOs, academic colleagues and government agencies.
Michael persisted, with notable success, as the agendas of both academics and policy makers opened. His mordant wit, especially when analyzing cases of injustice, not only entertained but also underscored his arguments.
Michael Turner will be long remembered for his loyal friendship, his supportive good humor, his perceptive analytic mind and his initiative in placing Afro-Brazilian and Afro-Latino realities onto academic and policy agendas so that others could follow in his footsteps. 
Peter Zabriskie, who worked in the budget and financial services office at the Foundation, died July 22 at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City after a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease.
Mr. Zabriskie went to work for Ford in 1968 as assistant budget manager in the comptroller’s office, and was named budget manager in 1970. In 1977, he was named manager of Budgets and Special Projects.
He transferred to the Office of the Budget in 1981 and, three years later, became assistant to the director of financial services.
He resigned from Ford in 1985.  
Margaret “Peggy” Toulson, who worked at the Ford Foundation for 30 years, primarily in the Archives/Records Department, died at her home in Queens, New York City, on August 5. 
She started at Ford in 1956 as a receptionist and typist in General Services. She became an Information Retrieval Specialist in Information Services in 1969 and remained in that office until her retirement in 1986, promoted first to Assistant Supervisor of the IR Unit in 1972 and then as a Senior IR Specialist in 1982.
In her work with the Foundation’s files and records she interacted with staff at all levels. “Her professionalism, attention to detail and regard for her colleagues won her many friends,” said Jane Dunne, who had worked in the Foundation’s Comptroller’s Office.
Patricia Gramby, who worked for the Ford Foundation for more than 20 years, died August 16.
Ms. Gramby started working for Ford in 1988 as a secretary in the Urban Poverty Program. She was an administrative assistant in the Economic Development Program when she retired in 2009.



Members log in to comment