Sweet Briar College has announced that Dr. Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp ’68 will address the Class of 2019 at the College’s 110th commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 18. The ceremony gets underway at 10 a.m. in the Quad and will be followed by a community luncheon in the Student Commons Courtyard.
“We’re thrilled to have Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp speak to the Mighty Class of 2019,” said President Meredith Woo. “Her accomplishments at Sweet Briar and beyond show how talent, confidence and hard work come together. Marshalyn is such an inspiration to us all.”
An epidemiologist and pediatrician, Yeargin-Allsopp is the associate director for children with special health care needs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where she has worked for more than three decades. She is recognized worldwide as a pioneer in autism research. Sixteen years ago, she began the development of what is now the “gold standard” approach for surveillance of special needs. Today, the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network helps to monitor the prevalence of developmental disabilities in U.S. children.
In her current role at CDC, Yeargin-Allsopp works on issues ranging from cerebral palsy to the Zika virus. In 2017, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine and in 2018, she was honored with a Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal.
“I feel that I’ve done the best I can do with the gifts and talents that I’ve been given,” she said according to a story in the Washington Post. “That’s what we all should do.”
In 1966, Yeargin-Allsopp, who was 17 at the time and looking for a school that was strong in the sciences, became the first African-American student to attend Sweet Briar College. She was a transfer, having started college at the young age of 16. In 1968, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Sweet Briar and became the first African-American woman admitted to Emory University School of Medicine.
Yeargin-Allsopp is currently serving a second term on the Sweet Briar College Board of Directors, where she sits on its executive committee. In 1992, the College honored her with its Distinguished Alumna Award.
“I think Sweet Briar as a place matches my determination and willpower as a person,” she said in a February 2018 profile on the Sweet Briar College website. “I hope that many more young women will find their way to Sweet Briar and take advantage of all the wonderful, transformative experiences they will have there. It can be life-changing. I am an example of that!”