Queen Booker (SHS 1982)

Former Step Student, Educator, Foundation Officer, Advisor to Gates Foundation

Queen Booker grew up poor in the poorest county in the poorest state in the Union.  She had nine brothers and sisters.  All lived with their parents on a farm.  They eked out a living, a sharecropper’s existence in a world they couldn’t control. 

Then Booker’s older sister heard about the STEP Program at Edgemont High School. Although the family couldn’t afford to lose a hand in the field, they urged her to apply. She did, was selected, and shared her experiences with the family. Booker followed this new Freedom Trail North to Scarsdale High School. Initially she remained silent, preferring to let others dominate the classroom. But gradually, things changed and Booker no longer feared that saying the wrong thing might result in a one-way trip back to Mississippi.

Her Academic successes in Scarsdale led to a bachelor’s degree in electrical
engineering and computer science at Harvard, and then an MBA from Wharton and a
Phd. from the University of Mississippi. The degrees, in turn, led to employment at the
Ford Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Kellogg Foundation.

Through it all, Queen Booker remained positive. She has used her talents as an administrator in support of the Ford Foundation’s efforts to address the problems of the senior year. She has traveled around the world studying the lives of the rural poor. She has called for telecommunications access and on-line education for the have not areas of the world. She has designed research models on the saving behavior of the poor and on lessons from a rural community college initiative. She has written numerous articles, many with heavy titles such as, “Toward Rapid Ontology Development for Undeveloped Domains.” And she learned to deal with the surprises that await any one seeking to change American education.

Now Booker is imparting the lessons learned from her twenty-plus years of experience in the college classroom, first at the University of Arizona and now at Minnesota State University at Mankato. Her goals are simple, to get her students to leave her classes knowing that they have learned more than mere academic exercises. To that end, Booker presents real world problems and does so by having her students learn by doing and practicing needed skills.

These days Booker has been asked to combine her teaching duties with a return engagement in the Foundation world. Warren Buffett’s donation of $30 Billion Dollars to the Gates Foundation and his insistence that the money be spent by a date certain has introduced new pressures on those involved in Buffett’s gift. Who is on the twenty-plus committee to advise the Gates Foundation? Queen Booker.