Dr. Adelaide Sanford

Recipient of the 2015 Dr. Betty Shabazz Award


Dr. Sanford’s professional career has spanned the elementary through college and graduate school levels. She has been a classroom teacher, teacher of guidance, assistant principal, and principal in the New York City School system. During her nineteen year tenure as principal, Public School 21, the Crispus Attucks School in Brooklyn, earned a reputation as an outstanding inner city school where pupil achievement, teacher morale, and special programs for gifted and talented students brought city-wide recognition.

She taught education courses at Baruch College and at Fordham University. She was a visiting practitioner and teaching fellow at the Principals’ Center at Harvard University, Graduate School of Education. Beginning in 1986, she was elected to and served for 19 years on the Board of Regents of the State of New York. She held the position of Vice Chancellor of the Board of Regents, as well as Chair of the Regents’ Committee on Low Performing Schools, Chair of the Committee on Higher Education, and Chair of the Committee on the Professions.

Sanford, a spellbinding orator and a tireless fighter for the underserved and underrepresented, is a leading national advocate for the education of students of African Ancestry. She developed the concept of a Board of Education of People of African Ancestry and was instrumental in its founding, development, and growth. The programs emanating from this initiative have received national recognition. She has received The Humanitarian Award from the Congressional Black Caucus; The Distinguished Alumna Award from Brooklyn College; The Ellen Lurie Award from the Community Service Society; and the Josephine Shaw Lowell Award for her work in empowering low income communities are among the hundreds of awards presented to her for her leadership in education.

Honorary doctorates were conferred on Regent Sanford by Mercy College, The Bank Street College of Education, Five Towns College, and most recently, St. John’s University. She is a graduate of Brooklyn College, Wellesley College, and Fordham University, where she was a Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Education. On the occasion of the 125th Anniversary of Wellesley College in Massachusetts, the African Studies Department presented The First Distinguished Black Alumna Award to Adelaide Sanford in recognition of her lifetime accomplishments.

Adelaide L. Sanford and the late Dr. Jay Sanford have two children, Dr. Jayminn Sanford-DeShields and David Sanford. She is the proud grandparent of two grandsons: David Corey Sanford and Daraja Jary DeShields.

Photo credit: Hakim Mutlaq